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Food Distribution Giant To Pay $20M For Holding Meat, Milk In Unrefrigerated Sheds

SANTA ANA ( — The nation's largest food distribution company will pay $20 million for illegally holding perishable foods such as seafood, milk and raw meat in unrefrigerated storage sheds, according to prosecutors.

KNX 1070's Ron Kilgore reports the consumer lawsuit filed against Santa Ana-based Sysco Corp. will go towards benefiting food banks throughout Orange County.

OC Food Distribution Firm To Pay $20M For Holding Meat, Milk In Unrefrigerated Sheds

In what state and county prosecutors are calling the largest settlement of a food safety prosecution in California history, Sysco agreed to provide $1 million worth of fresh food to food banks in Orange County and across the state, according to Orange County District Attorney spokeswoman Susan Kang Schroeder.

Prosecutors say beginning around 2010, Sysco used unregistered storage facilities and vehicles to store and transport smaller food shipments to commercial restaurants, schools and hospitals. These trucks routinely delivered food orders - included products such as seafood, pork, beef and dairy products - to unrefrigerated mini-storage units similar to those in which people store extra furniture and other household items, according to Schroeder.

California law requires food distribution companies to register all vehicles and sites used to transport or store food with CDPH, which regulates food distribution and storage of perishable items to protect consumers from unsanitary conditions and food-borne illness, Schroeder said.

According to prosecutors, a reporter in Northern California uncovered the practice, which led state inspectors to determine that Sysco had used at least 22 unregistered storage sites throughout California. Food coming through these sites reached commercial customers and consumers throughout the state, said Schroeder.

In addition to violating Health and Safety Code sections by transporting and holding potentially hazardous foods at unsafe temperatures and storing food in unregistered sites, prosecutors say Sysco also engaged in misleading advertising, falsely claiming to use only "state of the art distribution warehouses," and go "above and beyond government regulations."

The lawsuit filed against Sysco and its seven California affiliates was prosecuted by the California Food, Drug and Medical Device task force and comprised of the District Attorney's Offices of Orange, Santa Clara, Santa Cruz, Alameda, Marin, Solano, Napa, Sonoma, Monterey and Shasta Counties.

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