UPDATED: Unrefrigerated storage prompts Sysco investigation - The Packer

UPDATED: Unrefrigerated storage prompts Sysco investigation

07/15/2013 12:01:00 PM
Mike Hornick

(UPDATED COVERAGE July 16) 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.

“Sysco 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.”

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 said.

Tim York, president of Salinas, Calif.-based foodservice company Markon Cooperative Inc., saw the episode as an aberration for Sysco.

“Sysco is very well-run and well-managed,” York said. “They did not get to be a $40-billion company by making this a standard operating practice.”

“On social media lately we’ve seen a Taco Bell employee licking a taco shell and a Golden Corral restaurant employee showing product being stored outside,” York said. “I look at those as unfortunate but isolated incidents. It’s not standard practice for Sysco let alone other quality foodservice distributors.”

Still, Sysco’s misstep was reason enough to revisit the issue of food safety within the group of eight broadline foodservice companies that comprise Markon Cooperative.

“We reminded our members about the critical link they are,” York said. “It underscored that cold chain management and food safety practices are a total supply chain responsibility.”

Sysco contacted clients whose product had been in the sheds, Wilson said in his statement.

“We are taking the precautionary measure with those affected customers to withdraw all products from the supply chain that had moved through the non-compliant Bay Area drop-sites,” according to the statement. “These customers are being asked to examine their inventory and dispose of the identified products; in these instances, their accounts will be credited accordingly.

“Sysco’s first priority is our commitment to provide safe, quality-assured products to our customers,” according to his statement.

Inspectors found rat droppings, insects and other unsanitary conditions inside the sheds, according to NBC Bay Area. State health officials declined to comment on possible penalties. Sysco could face misdemeanor criminal charges and a $1,000 fine for each violation.

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Bob Olivieri    
Bridgewater, MA  |  July, 15, 2013 at 03:25 PM

This comment has been deleted.

Irene bradle    
Marina Ca.  |  July, 15, 2013 at 05:28 PM

What a lousy company!! Big corporate bosses doing whatever they can to save a few bucks and treating their employees like second class citizens. I see, even back in 1983, they had no morals, and cared very little for the opinions of the people working for the company. Well now, at long last, it has come to light their disregard for human issues and safety. They obviously haven't been diligent or paying any attention to what was happening. Too busy playing golf perhaps? Very shameful situation!!

The Juice    
Illinois  |  July, 15, 2013 at 10:11 PM

This is an opco level deal - nothing to do with corporate. Guaranteed. Heads will roll on this one. I still cannot believe they did that. I am curious who blew the whistle. Was it a concerned employee or disgruntled former employee? I am glad they got caught before something horrible happened. What a disgraceful decision by management at SF to do this. A real black eye.

tom ambrosia    
pa  |  July, 16, 2013 at 09:33 AM

Sysco is made up of several divisions which act at times independent of HQ Houston. Same way at USFS. BUT USFS has an excellent QA Food Safety team at HQ and regional locations. I doubt this would ever have been allowed. Likewise I would think the QA and Food Safety at Sysco HQ and regional were never aware of what drivers were doing. QA/FS folks are usually excluded from transportation, operations for obvious reasons. I hope Sysco GQ discharges each and every member of top management down to the supervisors and drivers who were aware of what they were doing. No one can say they did not know, that is a bunch of horse manure. When you have such a serious breach in Food Safety and ethics, then heads must roll and not just the rank and file. Personally I still say executives of firms involved in such actions, recalls etc, need to be fined heavily and jail time.

Tony Z    
Miami  |  July, 16, 2013 at 02:11 PM

Worked for Sysco for 33 years and this practice was not tolerated in our Branch. Sales people can not even deliver Refrigerated products in their own autos which they pick up from the main warehouse, even if they use the proper cooler to keep product chilled. This is truly is an isolated incident at SanFrancisco and I understand people at the top have lost their jobs over this poor judgement. Sysco is more titely run then ever!

Seattle  |  July, 17, 2013 at 12:06 AM

Clearly Tom you work for USFS and I can tell you that sales associates in my marketplace that work for USFS deliver pershibles daily to their cliental. Either case this is a wake up call for all involved. Maybe it will shake up the whole industry including the cash & carries of the world and Costco business centers. Hundreds of restaurantuers purchase these sort of products, leave in their cars for hours, then take back to ther place of business for sale. Who's stopping that? Either way, we all need to learn from this.

East Bay  |  July, 17, 2013 at 01:26 PM

Nobody is going to believe that everyone who was involved in this was unaware of the danger of storing perishable food in storage sheds that were not only uncooled but got as high as 81degrees! For hours! Then transporting them inside someone's hot car trunk. Imagine ordering a steak cooked medium rare after it had been in that shed uncooled for 5 hours. Nobody is so unaware that they would think that was okay. Every person involved in the process should be prosecuted. Someone could have died. Maybe someone did!

Texas  |  July, 18, 2013 at 06:44 PM

Why would a $40-billion company, led by adults, not fast food/casual dining employees, make these kinds of business decisions? How hard, or expensive, would it be to rent/lease/purchase remote facilities that meet health standards? Too costly for a $40-billion company? I do not believe this is the only suspect Sysco business practice or that it is confined to CA. My experience with Sysco in Texas leads me to this belief! Encouraged to see Markon official, Tim York, reminding their members about the critical link they are and underscoring that cold chain management and food safety practices are a total supply chain responsibility. Sysco Foods apparently broke the chain of responsibility on this one!

Jeremy Ackors    
Amarillo  |  July, 19, 2013 at 08:35 AM

I've been with Sysco for over 2 yrs now and our shed had a fridge and freezer in it.... Our warehouse is located in Lubbock so the only way customers could get 1-5 items that they forgot to order or were shorted on the delivery was to drop it at the shed the next day.... But now we are no longer able to do that for them. But shame on those guys for not doing it right... Surely they could afford to buy a fridge and freezer to put in there sheds???

chicago  |  July, 22, 2013 at 06:22 PM

This totally proves Tim York has alot of class and he is right about Sysco. great company's both. it should not have happen check your practices and move on. learn don't point fingers. The media could learn from Tim. Thank you Tim for always standing up for our industry we need more tims.

Paris  |  October, 20, 2013 at 08:42 PM

Their sheds, moron

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