(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.