Delivery 101: Inspection Tips for Food Safety

One area of food protection and food safety that often gets overlooked is delivery. Food should always be stored properly even when being delivered. All the same protections should be in place such as holding temperature, separating raw from ready-to-eat foods, and using containers that protect the food from insects or rodents.

Food Delivery: Inspection Tips for Food Safety |

Food is delivered in many ways. Larger organizations have commissaries that produce food and then send it out to other locations using trucks, suppliers deliver large amounts of food to many restaurants all day, and many restaurants deliver meals right to customers’ doorsteps. In each of these cases, the deliverer should be taking proper steps to ensure the food is delivered safely.

Inspection Food Safety Tips for Receiving Food

There are steps restaurant managers can take to make sure they don’t receive food that has been compromised in the delivery process.

  1. Temperature: Always make sure the food being received is holding at the proper temperature. If it’s supposed to be cold, verify it’s at 41 degrees Fahrenheit. If the food being delivered isn’t at the right temperature, don’t accept it. There is no way of knowing how long it was sitting in the danger zone.
  2. Package integrity: Check boxes or packaging the food is contained in. Are there rips or tears? Is it wet or falling apart? Most food is delivered in cardboard boxes and can easily be compromised. Pests or rodents can crawl inside, and if a box is on a wet floor, the water can seep through to the food. Always make sure the packaging is in good shape.
  3. Delivery time: Certain large suppliers prefer delivering food early in the morning before anyone is present in a facility. I don’t recommend this practice, but if you allow this, make sure the suppliers are putting food in the proper place. Cold food should go right into the walk-in or another refrigerator. Don’t ever allow food to be left outside if no one is present to accept it.
  4. Delivery trucks: When food is delivered by truck, ask these questions:
  • Is the truck cold enough inside?
  • Are the floors, walls and ceilings clean?
  • Can the truck be closed tight to prevent pests from entry?
  • If the truck engine is off, does the condenser stay on?
  • Does the truck only deliver food?

If no was the answer to any of these questions, you might want to find another delivery service. The first 3 are obvious, but if the condenser shuts off at every delivery stop, the chances that your food is stored at the proper temperature during delivery are very remote or impossible during hot days. If the truck delivers more than food, cross-contamination could be a big issue.

Keep Delivery Customers Safe

If meals are delivered straight to a customer, try not to make too many stops each time out. The more stops that are made the harder it is to keep food at the proper temperature. This affects food safety as well as quality. All restaurants want to make sure their diners have the best experience; the same should be true for a delivery customer.

Tracking Food Deliveries and Outbreaks

Recently, there have been problems with food delivery, and investigators are starting to look at these processes when tracking outbreaks. The cantaloupe outbreak in 2012 was shipped by a trucking company that shares the same address as the farm that produced the product. What most people don’t know is that this trucking company also ships many other agricultural products besides produce. It opens the possibility that the produce could have been contaminated with salmonella during the delivery process.

Another investigation by Jeff Rossen from the television show Today highlights the problem with food delivery. He rode along with the Indiana State Police randomly checking delivery trucks for unsafe temperatures. They found trucks without working refrigeration, food over 100 degrees Fahrenheit and raw meats dripping juices onto vegetables.

The FDA was asked 7 years ago to come up with stricter safety guidelines for food delivery trucks. It still hasn’t happened. Local food safety professionals, suppliers, chefs, managers and consumers should be doing everything they can to make sure food is always handled safely, even during delivery.

Looking for more ways to improve food safety? Here are a few more articles that may interest you:


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