July 2003 Edition
Food Safety

by Suzanne Berryman, P.Dt.,

Health Care Manager and Food Safety Coordinator

Serving wholesome, tasty, nutritious and safe food to your customers is one of your main goals. Yet the day to day running of a foodservice operation can be complex and demanding. Employees, food and equipment must be coordinated every minute of every working day and all the while you must ensure that the food that your serve to your customers is as safe as it can possibly be.

Food Safety is the #1 Concern of Customers

Food safety is also of prime importance to the customers you serve. In fact, a recent national survey rated food safety as a # 1 concern for consumers, even above food quality. And it’s no wonder. We are inundated on a daily basis with media headlines on issues affecting the safety of our food supply to incidences of food borne illness from Ecoli 0157 H7, Salmonella and Listeria to name only a few. Implications of being associated with an outbreak of food borne illness (food poisoning) could cause irreversible damage to the reputation of your business, litigation and in some cases even business closure. Implementing a H.A.C.C.P. (Hazard Analysis Critical Control Point) based food safety program in your establishment and providing food safety training for your employees is your best defense against food borne illness.

How Does your Current Food Service Distributor Measure-Up?

Along with implementing a food safety program in your establishment, you should also be conscious about working with food manufacturers and food service distributors who have a HACCP based food safety programs in place. Some questions that could be asked to evaluate your current food service distributor include:

  • Does my food distributor have temperature controlled delivery equipment with refrigerated and frozen sections to maintain the proper temperature of the food that I am purchasing? Refrigerated foods such as produce, deli meats, dairy products and cheeses should be delivered at a temperature of +4°C/ 39°F or colder and frozen foods at –18°C/-0.4°F or colder.
  • Ask your distributor if they have a HACCP based food safety program, or Good Distribution Practices /Good Manufacturing Practices Program in place? What are the components of the program? If they can’t answer these questions, chances are they don’t have one in place.
  • What is the condition of the distribution facility that I am purchasing from? Ask your distributor for a tour of their facilities. Is the facility clean? Are there any product spills on the floor that look like they have been there for a long time? Would you be comfortable purchasing food for your own family there?
  • What are the conditions of your distributor’s delivery vehicles? Does your distributor have a program in place for regular truck cleaning and sanitation? Are the vehicles clean, free of holes, well maintained and in good condition?

Sysco’s Commitment to Food Safety

Although it is not yet mandatory in Canada for food service distributors to have a HACCP based food safety program in place, Sysco Food Services have voluntarily taken the initiative to implement HACCP based food safety programs in all Sysco Distribution Centres across Canada. These programs help to ensure that the food that we distribute to our customers is as safe as it can possibly be from the time it arrives at our dock until the time it is delivered to your food service operation.

Sysco’s Food Safety Program includes the following pre-requisite programs: building premises, sanitation programs, pest control, receiving and storage guidelines, safe transportation practices, equipment, detailed recall policies and procedures, personnel training and record keeping.

In order to ensure the ongoing effectiveness of our food safety programs, Sysco requires that all of our Distribution Centres across Canada undergo two unannounced food safety audits per year by an accredited third party organization. Each Distribution Centre is expected to achieve no less than a "superior" rating for each audit. There are very stringent and specific guidelines that must be followed in order to maintain achieve accreditation on an ongoing basis.

In the future, food safety will remain of continued importance to all of our customers including health care, multi-unit accounts and restaurant segments of the food service industry. No matter which market segment you are in, you can count on Sysco’s continued commitment to ensuring the highest level of food safety in all aspects of our business as part of our ongoing mission to helping our customers succeed. ¨