San Jose, California resident Loretta Seto posted a set of photos on January 14, 2018 that went viral after she saw a disturbing site at her local grocery story. Posted to Facebook, Seto took photos of men in yellow slickers delivering raw meat, unwrapped and all, to the 99 Ranch Market at Hostetter Road and Lundy Avenue. After the images went viral, The San Jose Mercury News stated that the "Santa Clara County Department of Environmental Health said in a statement it received complaints Friday about an 'unauthorized delivery of pork' to the market."
The meat, carted in Costco shopping carts, shocked Seto, who told her story to NBC Bay Area:
"Raw meat was being transported in Costco shopping carts -- first thing I did was snap a photo. Two guys were transporting slaps of pork -- they were just slapped on the handle bard. I don't know where it goes -- does it go down the aisle and touch all the products? I don't know. It was absolutely horrific in my opinion."
The publication was able to identify the vendor as Jim's Farm Meat Co. Inc. The Modesto Bee was able to contact the office manager of Jim's Farm Meat, Maria Moon, where she confirmed that the meat did indeed come from Jim's, but the staff was looking into the matter. While she had no explanation for why the employees would be carting raw meat into the store, she relayed that for this to happen, "the two employees... would have removed the meat from the wrap and cardboard combo bins where... the pork is generally housed during delivery."
Moon told the Modesto Bee,
"We are thoroughly investigating the incident. This isn't anything we typically do. When we send our products out, they are always in a combo bin and wrapped. That's how it left our facility."
While both employees were fired from the meat company as immediate steps after the photos surfaced, it's unknown whether or not 99 Ranch Market requested this specific kind of delivery, or how the meat became unwrapped in the first place. However, the Modesto Bee reported that 99 Ranch Market discarded the meat and stated it was filing a complaint against Jim's Farm Meat for the raw pork incident.
For 99 Ranch Market's part, the grocery store responded to Seto on her Facebook post and apologized profusely about the unwrapped pork. As they wrote, the store is "taking the necessary steps to resolve this issue by investigating this case further and filing a complaint against our vendor."
The Foodborne Organisms of Pork
Per the United States Department of Agriculture listing for pork under its food safety guide, it lists the potentially harmful foodborne organisms from raw pork. Escherichia coli (E.coli), Salmonella, Staphylococcus aureus, Yersinia enterocolitica, and Listeria monocytogenes are all associated with raw pork, as well as other meats. As the USDA states,
People can become infected with these bacteria by consuming raw or undercooked pork, or from the cross-contamination of food contact surfaces, such as countertops, cutting boards, utensils. These bacteria are all destroyed by proper handling and thorough cooking.
What's most concerning isn't the fact that the port itself was raw and unwrapped, but that it likely came into contact with various surfaces on its way into the store. Not to mention infecting the Costco shopping carts, of which there is a location across the street from 99 Ranch Market where this took place.
Of course the customer satisfaction rating following these photos from the northern California grocery store has sunk, which isn't great for both businesses because right now, neither can confirm or deny exactly how and why the raw pork was transported in this way. Appropriate actions are being taken by the Santa Clara County Department of Environmental Health as department officials launch an investigation to learn more.
For now, we can only thank San Jose resident Loretta Seto for snapping the photos seen around the country that revealed this new level of a food safety faux pas.