Sysco Corp. has ended use of unrefrigerated storage units in northern California after video by NBC Bay Area showed employees leaving fresh produce and other perishable foods there for hours prior to delivery.
“Syscov San Francisco’s drop-site practices in the Bay Area were not compliant with company policy,” Charley Wilson, vice president of corporate communications at Houston-based Sysco, said in a statement. “We reviewed with Sysco San Francisco our policy, and they have taken immediate corrective action.”
That policy requires refrigeration at all times.
The broadcaster’s surveillance cameras showed drivers making overnight drop-offs of chicken, pork, beef, bacon, milk and vegetables to metal sheds in San Jose, San Francisco and Concord.
The report prompted visits by California Department of Public Health inspectors in the second week of July. They went to 14 sheds not designed to store food, a department spokesman told The Packer.
The exposure of the practice called new attention to the broader issue of breaks in the cold chain’s final links — whether product is left unrefrigerated at an intermediate site just before final delivery, as in Sysco’s case, or at a restaurant before business hours.
In the foodservice industry when a salesman makes final delivery — instead of a driver — he normally picks up the order at a distribution center rather than a drop site, said Doug Stoiber, vice president of produce transportation operations for L&M Transportation Services, Raleigh, N.C.
“In all the situations I’ve been in, a salesperson would usually have to come in to the distribution center, sign an invoice and take the product to the customer,” Stoiber said. “That happens when there’s a shortage on a truck or a customer needs a favor.”
“It’s not a common practice,” he said, referring to use of smaller sites. “I don’t know Sysco San Francisco’s operation. It’s probably not the only place it happens.”
Stoiber is more familiar with incidents of deliveries left unrefrigerated at their final destinations.
“I heard about Sysco and thought about the number of times distributors’ trucks leave refrigerated and frozen produce at an unrefrigerated storage area for a customer who isn’t open yet,” he said. “Winter or summer, the truck leaves everything in a designated spot. It’s not common, but it happens with the owner’s agreement.”