Mike Hornick, staff writer
Mike Hornick, staff writer

Oh-oh, Sysco.

The “O” in Sysco Corp.’s name represents, for now at least, the black eye its food safety reputation suffered when NBC television cameras showed the foodservice distributor using unrefrigerated lockers for temporary storage in the San Francisco Bay area.

Drivers were caught on tape making overnight dropoffs of perishables in three cities. The food and its cooler were too soon parted.

Dropoff locations are a stop on the supply chain most of us probably give little thought to. They’re used in the foodservice business, though it’s hard to say how extensively.

Drivers covering a big territory may leave a load at a prearranged site for a distributor’s sales staff to pick up and deliver to customers.

But if it’s fresh produce or meats, any site has to be refrigerated. That’s Sysco’s policy, anyway, which the company acknowledges it violated in San Francisco.

Sysco vowed swift corrective action. But how could something like this happen?

My guess is that someone at Sysco lapsed into the kind of fallacy or fuzzy logic you’d expect from the consumer who leaves meat on the kitchen counter or in the car trunk for hours at a time.

Instead of asking, in effect, “Is it OK to break the cold chain?” they ask how long it can safely be broken.

For our readers with logic textbooks on the reference shelf next to Red Book Credit Services, it’s called the complex question fallacy. It’s a form of rationalizing.

But if you use unrefrigerated storage, you ought to be wondering just what it is that you’ve prearranged.

A drop site? Or a contamination risk?

And you ought to wonder that before the television cameras show up.


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