Safe ground beef means never losing your cool

Safe ground beef means never losing your cool

When it comes to ground beef, potential exposure to harmful bacteria is multiplied because more of the meat’s surface is exposed as a result of the grinding process. Plus, any contaminants that may be present are thoroughly mixed into the product, making the safe processing, handling, transport and storage of ground beef even more important to reduce the risk of a foodborne disease due to pathogenic contamination.

For these bacteria to thrive they need to exist in an optimal temperature range, between 40 and 140º F (4.4 and 60º C)—a temperature range also called the Danger Zone. That’s why with Sysco, our cold chain is constantly monitored and controlled as the most important factor for maintaining raw ground beef safety. From the supplier to transportation to our warehouse to customer receipt, you can rest assured that all sensitive products maintain proper temperatures.

From supplier to warehouse
Sysco has standard protocols in place for raw ground beef to ensure proper staging and transport, for suppliers and for Sysco-owned meat companies.

To start, all products must be staged under temperature-controlled conditions. Prior to loading, a visual inspection must be conducted and documented to ensure that the transport vehicle has been swept clean of dirt and debris, is free of odors and is in sound condition—no punctures in sidewalls, roof or floor.

For loading and transport, boxes must be stacked on pallets in good repair, with overhang kept at a minimum to reduce box fatigue. Pallets must also be shrink-wrapped tightly enough to reduce load shifting, but not so tight as to cause damage to boxes.

Trailer refrigeration units are required to be set at 28º F for shipment, and all trailers must be chilled long enough before loading to ensure the ambient air temperature reaches 35º F or lower. During transport, refrigerated meat must not enter the temperature Danger Zone. Frozen meat must stay at 15º F or colder for quality reasons. During transport, suppliers of bulk ground beef and Sysco-owned meat companies use Time Temperature Recorders (TTRs) to monitor the environmental condition of trailers. These TTRs “alarm” if the product has been exposed to temperatures that could result in pathogenic bacterial growth.

From warehouse to customer
Sysco Operating Company warehouses are models of efficiency. We employ the latest advances in warehouse layout, scanning technology and processes to help us receive, store and deliver products with minimum waste and maximum safety.

When a temperature-controlled shipment arrives, Sysco procedure requires that it is unloaded on a refrigerated dock. Before unloading, trailers are inspected for cleanliness, sanitation and proper temperature. The associate responsible for receiving a shipment is required to take no less than three temperature readings from different areas within the trailer—nose, middle, and tail—and from representative areas of the top, middle and bottom of the pallets onboard.

To be considered in compliance with Sysco’s food safety requirements, temperatures of refrigerated products must be less than 40° F, while frozen products should be less than 15° F. This ensures that our high-risk products, such as ground beef, are kept at temperatures that inhibit or prevent bacterial growth and reduce the risk for contamination.

Because so many different products have such specific storage needs in regard to temperature, Sysco warehouses have multiple flexible temperature zones—creating optimum mini-environments for the safe storage and staging of at-risk items. Newer warehouse coolers even have flexible walls between temperature-controlled areas, providing the ability to adjust and alter zones as needed.

In food distribution, controlling food safety risks and ensuring food quality depend heavily on maintaining proper temperatures at all times. When transporting and storing ground beef and other beef products, strict temperature control is mission critical.