The Napa County District Attorney said Thursday it will receive $1.5 million from one of the nation’s largest food distribution companies for keeping seafood, milk, raw meat and other perishable foods in unrefrigerated storage units in California, including a shed in American Canyon.

The settlement is part of nearly $20 millions that Sysco Corporation has agreed to pay the state of California and 10 counties.

The $1.5 million payment — perhaps the biggest obtained by the Napa County District Attorney’s Office — will be used in Napa County to pay for future consumer fraud investigations and prosecutions, according to District Attorney Gary Lieberstein.

In addition, Sysco will distribute $1 million worth of food to food banks throughout California, including $15,000 worth of food to the Napa Valley Food Bank.

Authorities began to investigate Sysco last July after the NBC news affiliate reported the company’s unsanitary food storage practices. State investigators found Sysco used unsanitary buildings with no refrigeration at dozens of sites. Ten district attorney offices, including the Napa County’s, collaborated in enforcement proceedings.

No one who ate the food became sick, “but the potential for illness was high,” Lieberstein said.

The American Canyon shed was on Lombard Street. It was unregistered, had no freezer and no refrigeration system.

A state investigator in July 2013 found no food in the unit. There was debris, dirt, dust, as well as cardboard and plastic wrap trash on the floor, according to the investigation report from the California Department of Public Health.

As part of the settlement filed in Santa Clara Superior Court, Sysco also agrees to pay $3.3 million to the state of California to pay for inspectors and to enforce food transportation laws, and another $130,000 to cover costs. In addition the defendant had to pay more than $127,000 in investigation costs and another $300,000 in court fees, according to court papers.

“Safe and sanitary steps in food handling are essential to prevent potential harm to consumers – regulations pertaining to food distribution and storage of perishable items are in place to protect consumers and are of the utmost concern. Practices such as those found here engaged in by Sysco Corporation are totally unacceptable and businesses which violate these provisions will be held strictly accountable to the highest level under the law,” Lieberstein said in a press release.

Drene Johnson, executive director at Community Action Napa Valley, which manages the Napa Valley Food Bank, did not know about the settlement with Sysco Thursday afternoon. The food bank has not received the food yet.

“We know nothing about this,” Johnson said. “But we’re thrilled. This will help us a great deal.”

Bill DeLaney, Sysco Corp. president and chief executive officer, said in a written statement Thursday that Sysco was accepting responsibility.

“Food safety is Sysco’s No. 1 priority, and it cannot be compromised. We sincerely regret that some of our California companies failed to adhere to our long-standing policies related to drop sites. The California Department of Public Health and the county district attorneys received our full cooperation in their investigations of our practices.

“In addition to the settlement with the state, we have comprehensively addressed our food safety and quality assurance practices in California and across the Sysco enterprise by putting in place the following positive steps:

“First, as we stated in September 2013, we eliminated the use of drop sites across Sysco. Second, we have introduced mandatory, annual food safety training for all employees across Sysco. Third, we are implementing additional and improved food safety reporting, monitoring and compliance controls across our operations to ensure adherence to our policies.

“Taking these steps reflects Sysco’s commitment to food safety across our enterprise. We accept responsibility for the breakdown in our system in California, and we have taken this opportunity to improve our practices and to re-emphasize to our customers and our employees that food safety is our No. 1 priority.”

(15) comments

Valid8everything
Valid8everything

When can I get my part of the settlement? 1.5 mil / 60k= twenty five bucks!

jojojackson
jojojackson

truthandreality!! good point!! Gary Lieberstein's grand standing while Napa's Rest Homes, Retirement Homes, Retirement Villages who are a MAJOR buyer for there weekly deliveries from Sysco feed Napa's elderly daily, there price is based on a small factor, twenty five cents a meal per person, that totals $270 extra a year, quite a demand on the elderly.

truthandreality
truthandreality

Thanks Mr. Lieberstein for higher food prices, more inflation. These fines never hurt the companies, they are simply passed on to consumers. Just another government mandated cost of doing business in the U.S.A.
Fines like this really do nothing good for the consumer. The problem was found out, and probably corrected. We should be satisfied with that. Punishing businesses only punishes consumers.

rocketman
rocketman

You really need to review what Consumer Fraud Units do...........

rocketman
rocketman

"TEN district attorney offices, including the Napa County’s, collaborated in enforcement proceedings." So you are saying its OK if the other 9 counties get all the fines?

jojojackson
jojojackson

How Many more Months till We Vote for a NEW D.A. ?

glenroy
glenroy

We opened a restaurant 25 years ago and switched to Sysco because they gave us better service....perishables arrived well within storage temperature which obviously we took to mean Sysco had better quality control…we couldn’t say that about our other providers then anyway.

So why would the food be good enough for the Food Bank but not the rest of society?

jojojackson
jojojackson

rocketman What LAW ?, I could not find anywhere that its Law in Napa, Is this something Gary Lieberstein Made up ?………………….. If this was just made Law who enacted this LAW?

rocketman
rocketman

District Attorney Consumer Fraud Units are in all 58 Counties. They are designed by law to be self funded and self sufficient. Financies do not come out of the general fund to fund these programs. All expenses and salaries are self funded by these fines.

rocketman
rocketman

BY LAW, the money received in these investigations must be used for continuing investigations, you can't supplant other areas of budgets. The DA is following the LAW.

rocketman
rocketman

Further info: Per the press release, Napa County will receive $1.5 million to our Consumer Trust Fund which will be available to fund future Consumer Fraud investigations and prosecutions. Additionally, $1 million statewide was set aside for distribution to food banks which will include the Napa Food Bank receiving $15,000 of fresh food products.

justonevoice
justonevoice

There are a lot of other areas this money could go to help people. The first is obviously to help feed those less fortunate.
If our current DA can't see this then it is time for a change.

crooked6pence
crooked6pence

How about donating that money to the food bank or reducing the district attorney's budget by $1.5 million.

rocketman
rocketman

The entire investigation and accolades should go to Deputy District Attorney Kathryn Borsetto. This is the Deputy in charge of the Consumer Division of the District Attorneys Office. One of the brightest and most talented DDA's in the office. Tireless hours spent and a real attribute to the District Attorneys office. Great job Kathryn!!!!

jojojackson
jojojackson

The $1.5 million payment -- perhaps the biggest obtained by the Napa County District Attorney’s Office -- will be used in Napa County to pay for future prosecutions, according to District Attorney Gary Lieberstein ………….Funny ? Our tax dollars at work with no return to Tax payers…….Or maybe all to the food Bank? see,s the DA wants it all…Go figure and the run off election is just around the corner

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