LAKELAND, Fla. - Publix Super Markets here has stopped donating fresh meat, fruit and vegetables to a large food bank in Palm Beach County because not all the food was being delivered in refrigerated trucks, which could put the safety of the perishable foods at risk, the retailer said.
Under the company's food safety policy, perishable items must be delivered in refrigerated vehicles.
"Time and temperature abuse can be very fatal when it comes to consumption, especially when you look at children, the elderly and pregnant women," said Publix spokeswoman Maria Brous.
"Those are high-risk groups. Not to mention, just in general, if you've eaten food that's been time or temperature abused, you can get sick.
"We would not be having this issue now if, God forbid, one person got sick," she continued. "People would then have said, 'How could you have let this go on and not taken corrective measures?'"
Publix has asked the food bank, Palm Beach Harvest, to find a way to transport the fresh items to protect the integrity of the food, Brous said. Publix was not aware that a few stores in the Palm Beach community were donating perishable items that were being picked up by untrained volunteers and placed in non-refrigerated vehicles.
For the time being, Publix is putting a stop to the program until a system for safeguarding the food is developed. Officials from Publix and Palm Beach Harvest are meeting in an attempt to resolve the problem.
"The real issue is, just because you've been doing it doesn't make it right and how do we meet somewhere in the middle to find a workable solution before somebody gets sick?" Brous said.
Publix continues to donate fresh food to charities in the Tampa and Collier areas that use refrigerated trucks to make deliveries, Brous said.