Investigations into the food storage practices of one of the country’s largest food distributors have reached the federal level, KNTV-TV reported on Monday.
Officials with the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) told KNTV that they have begun probing Sysco Corporation following a complaint received at the USDA’s office in Alameda, California. Members of a local meat trade association reportedly contacted the USDA after watching a July 2013 report showing Sysco employees storing perishable food in non-refrigerated outdoor sheds, then delivering them using their own cars instead of company vehicles.
That same month, the California Department of Public Health began its own investigation into what one official called “a little bit of a runaway train” of violations. Fifteen similar sheds were discovered in Ontario, Canada in September 2013, prompting a separate inquiry by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency.
A company spokesperson told KNTV that Sysco, which serves about 400,000 customers through its 180 facilities in the U.S., Canada and Ireland, had disposed of the outdoor sheds and was cooperating with authorities.
Rep. Sam Farr (D-CA), who is based out of nearby Santa Cruz and is the ranking member of the Appropriations subcommittee on Agriculture, Rural Development and Food and Drug Administration, criticized Sysco for creating mistrust around itself.
“We’re very concerned because this Sysco problem violates the trust the growers have in growing the safest food in the world and the producers of meat and poultry in abiding by the federal laws that are the toughest in the world,” Farr told KNTV. “The problem is the handlers and what happens in the time it leaves the security of the grower or producers and gets to the restaurants.”
[Image via KNTV-TV]