Delivering Food Safely

Delivering food safely across the country is on a steep ascent. With the escalation, it may be time for the industry to step back for just a moment and consider the trend deliveries are taking and the risk each of our businesses may incur from this escalation.  Restaurants, supermarkets, and other forms of personal and commercial vehicles are transporting raw and prepared food product every day.   There is no regulation on delivering food safely, and there is escalated risk with the growing methods of transportation being utilized.

We must address this risk before risk becomes incidence.  To disregard regulation of delivering food safely conveniences exposes a business to legal liability and the general public to the potential of food-borne illness and other possible risk factors.  Especially now, during COVID-19, the delivering safe food possibly carries additional consequences.

There is no current regulation on delivering food safely after they leave a restaurant, supermarket, or manufacturer, and you do not know who is transporting your product or how your items are being handled or mishandled during shipment.   In the past, businesses routinely delivered their own product in their own vehicles by employees of the business.  This has changed with the growing use of on-call personal vehicles hired for such services through the trend of companies generated to hire transportation services.   The potential for a business to be liable for the food they place in a vehicle belonging to someone they do not know is a huge risk.  Imagine a vehicle from one of the common carriers delivers food to your door, just after they unknowingly transported a sick individual.

Ensure all your delivery staff are made aware of food delivery risks.

Claim your restaurant on Use the COVID19CREDIT code for a $50 credit. Invite your staff to sign up and take a Free  “Delivering Food Safely”, course.  Monitor their completion of the  course. The Course is generously offered by Dining Safety Alliance and its Sponsors.

Delivering food safely requires maintaining proper heat or refrigeration per FDA Food Code. Between 40 degrees and 140 degrees is the danger zone regulation standard in the US. The risk of transporting food items within the danger zone for too long exposes great risk to the public for food-borne illness. Licensed food service businesses must work hard every day maintaining these standards to protect the public, and they can receive a reduction in points if a Health Inspector observes any food that is not temperature controlled or not maintained under these regulatory guidelines. Many businesses have had Inspectors demand food to be destroyed when found sitting on the counter or to be within the danger zone for any length of time. The time and temperature factors on deliveries are critical to delivering food safely. However, there is no such regulation on these deliveries.

When I asked Jason Foscolo at The Food Law Firm who bears the responsibility when a food manufacturing or restaurant supplies goods to a third-party delivery company that delivers to the end-user, he says:
“prior to giving the product to the delivery company the highest level of care is the responsibility of the food manufacturer or preparer to create and place food into the stream of commerce in a safe condition.” Foscolo adds that “not my fault are not defenses,” and encourages food preparers to “have strict liability principles and to make the decisions and investment to prepare food properly and also check the product they receive.”

Jason was unable to comment on the responsibility after the transfer, so the question becomes who is accountable?

In addition to the aforementioned, there is Hazard Analysis Critical Control Point (HACCP) regulations that generally fall within the receiving and preparation of product at the business. There is nothing preventing a biological, chemical, or physical hazards associated with HACCP coming into play with a delivery of product in a vehicle that has no regulation. We must be concerned with other items that are in the vehicle and how they are handled during transfer, otherwise without such regulation anything can be transported along with your food, including animals and sick individuals.

Ask yourself:

  • Who is delivering your food?
  • Have they washed their hands?
  • How are they washing their hands?
  • Are they wearing gloves?
  • What else is in the vehicle?
  • Is there potential for a hazardous chemical or biological intrusion during the transfer?
  • Can the delivery take over 2 hours from end of prep to door to door with no temperature controls?

If for no other reason think about this; can someone deliberately influence your products time and temperature, or introduce a non-food ingredient, chemical, biological or physical hazard into your food to make someone ill and damage your reputation? The answer is obvious.

Ensure all your delivery staff are made aware of food delivery risks.

Claim your restaurant on Use the COVID19CREDIT code for a $50 credit. Invite your staff to sign up and take a Free  “Delivering Food Safely”, course.  Monitor their completion of the  course. Generously offered by Dining Safety Alliance and its Sponsors.

These are all bonified concerns that must be addressed, or they create risk to the consumer and to the establishment. The obligation for us to review and regulate this potential risk is primary to your business success and the growing demand of these services.

By Jim Lopolito, President of Lopolito Hospitality Consultants, Corp. (LHC), a leading New York based consulting firm that provides forward-thinking reviews and solutions nationwide to businesses in the hospitality industry. Advisory services are available to restaurants, country clubs, caterers, and other food service businesses with solutions for Turnaround Purposes, Concept, Design, Renovation, Operational Development, Training, Property and Facility Oversight, Golf and Pool Operations. The company also offers Executive Search and Interim Management Services.

Jim is a member with Cayuga Hospitality Consultants, which is a network of independent hospitality professionals and senior industry leaders.

Jim is a Board of Director with Dining Safety Alliance. DSA is a 501(c)(3) organization. Our mission is to improve public health and food safety.