Food safety advocate: Little oversight of food transported in private vehicles

Food safety advocate: Little oversight of food transported in private vehicles

This week, 25 Investigates exposed the path food travels to some restaurant kitchens.

Thursday night, 25 Investigates sat down with an insider who describes a dangerous double standard in the food service industry.

The man we spoke with is an executive at a large food distributor that delivers to hundreds of restaurants all over New England.

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He readily admits it's bad for his business when restaurants shop for themselves.

But he says the laws in place should apply to everyone.

25 Investigates observed restaurant owners and buyers stocking up at a wholesaler in Everett on a day when the high reached 96 degrees.

One man loaded meat and other perishables into his van and then left them in the heat to shop more.

"That's boxes of raw chicken," said Ed Noe, a food safety advocate who is not the least surprised.

He took pictures on a scorching hot day three years ago, outside the same store.

"My inside of my car, I even had a picture of it was 104 (degrees) and I just sat there and I watched," Noe said.

Noe is vice president of a food wholesaler that delivers to restaurants all over New England. He's also a vocal food safety advocate.

He showed us his temperature controlled warehouse and refrigerated delivery trucks.

He says this side of the industry is highly regulated, with surprise inspections.

But he says there is very little oversight of food transported in private vehicles.

"This isn’t about beating up on the small guy. This is about protecting the consumer," Noe said.

"If the small guy wants to go there and put a sign in his window that says we go and pick up our food in unrefrigerated now if you want to go and it there it’s your right to do that," Noe said.

State and federal regulations require that meat, seafood and other perishables be chilled even during transport to prevent contaminants that lead to food poisoning.

He says most in the food industry are well aware those rules aren't always followed. And he says it's the customers that suffer.

"There's a big loophole between leaving the refrigerated establishment and the customers back door and it's all being shoved under the rug," Noe said.

Noe told 25 Investigates that he's brought his concerns to several state agencies, including the state Department of Public Health and the state Department of Transportation.

But he said his complaints have been brushed off.