FAIRFIELD — The Solano County District Attorney’s Office announced Thursday that it will receive $1.5 million from Sysco Corporation, the nation’s largest food distributor and among the largest food distributors worldwide, as part a settlement of a lawsuit brought against the company by prosecutors in 10 California counties.
Sysco Inc. agreed to pay nearly $20 million in restitution, costs and penalties for the illegal practice of holding perishable foods – such as seafood, milk and raw meat – in unrefrigerated, unprotected storage sheds.
For several years, Sysco trucks routinely delivered food orders to unrefrigerated mini-storage units, the same type in which people store extra furniture and other household items. Most of these units had no refrigeration and some were unsanitary. Smaller orders were dropped secretly at these unregistered locations for employees to transport later to commercial customers. Sales representatives transported the smaller shipments in personal, unrefrigerated vehicles.
Sysco ceased the illegal practices once it was brought to light by a news reporter in 2013, according to Deputy District Attorney Diane Taira.
An investigation by the California Department of Public Health found that Sysco had used at least 22 unregistered sites throughout California. Food coming through these sites reached commercial customers including schools and hospitals. Sysco voluntarily cooperated with the investigation.
The lawsuit accused Sysco of engaging in misleading advertising, claiming to use only “state-of-the-art distribution warehouses,” and often going “above and beyond government regulations.” Sysco trucks also bear the slogan, “Quality Assured.”
Sysco agreed to pay more than $4 million in restitution including a contribution of $1 million worth of fresh food to California food banks and $3.3 million to fund a five-year statewide inspection program administered by the state. Sysco is also required to develop and carry out a comprehensive companywide food safety program to ensure these practices are not repeated.
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