So what does it take to be a reputable distributor who is dedicated to and consistently apply food safety best practices throughout their operations—from truck to warehouse to delivery?
There are six key factors that food distributors should include as part of their quality assurance/quality control systems to be considered proactive partners in food safety by their customers in foodservice and retail. These are:
It is imperative that transporters and distributors establish hygienic food handling practices for trucks and carrier vehicles, storage areas and warehouses.
No matter how high the level of integrity of the finished product leaving the manufacturing plant, if that product is not stored in the warehouse or transported in the truck at the correct temperature, the safety of the food will be compromised. When transporters attempt to reduce fuel costs by shutting off the refrigeration systems in the truck trailer, the product clearly will undergo some level of temperature abuse, perhaps to a level that allows the growth of undesirable pathogenic organisms in or on the product or packaging.
Distribution companies should ensure that all personnel who handle food product containers, including warehouse forklift drivers, loaders and truckers, understand what happens when the cold chain is broken and establish clear procedures for multi-drops, vehicle breakdowns and correct loading.
All employees must be trained in personal hygiene and food handling procedures and practices to achieve the highest levels of food safety in any operation in the food supply chain. In transportation and distribution operations, the basic topics that should be covered and routinely reinforced in food safety training programs are essentially the same as we would expect in the processing plant or the restaurant establishment, including: Wearing of the correct personal protective clothing such as clean clothes and footwear, use hairnets when appropriate, and in some situations, limit wearing jewelry or other accessories when at work.
Training in food handling procedures to avoid product damage by rough handling. Some products are very sensitive, and if such items get smashed or crushed and their packaging is torn or opened, microorganisms now have the opportunity to enter, grow and multiply.
Proper training in cleaning procedures and practices. No customer wants to visit the distribution facility and see that food products scheduled to be delivered to restaurants are stored in a filthy warehouse, or that the truck that is being used to transport foods is unhygienic. These cleaning procedures should be implemented and effectively monitored.
Look out for part 2 in this series