Before you place incoming meat, poultry, or seafood in its rightful storage, a proper inspection following a detailed guide should take place. This inspection should include taking the temperature of the food, ensuring its packing is intact, and that it looks acceptable. As an added level of precaution, you can request a history of the transportation and quality inspections performed from the network of distributors delivering the food. The protection of the safety of the food can be performed with proper practices in place including proper sanitation and systems in place along the entire route of distribution. For example, meat and poultry require refrigeration after they are processed yet before they are shipped. This is the only way to prevent the growth of harmful pathogens and potential spoiling. The proper temperature must then also be maintained throughout the transportation process in order to protect their safety. [1]

Inspecting the Delivery Vehicles

A majority of the meat, poultry, and fish you receive are delivered by truck, but that does not mean that they were on that truck the entire time. They could have been transferred several times from one truck to another or even stored in a warehouse at one point. In order to ensure the safety of the food you receive, you should be aware not only of the path that the foods you receive took, but of the control measures taken. You have the right to ask for the transportation log to ensure that proper temperatures were taken and achieved during the entire process. In addition, a few things that you should check for are the use of dedicated vehicles for the transfer of meat, poultry, or seafood; temperature control during all aspects of the transportation process including storing, loading, and unloading; and the prevention of cross-contamination throughout the shipping process.

Food Inspection

Understanding Temperatures

It is important that everyone has a thorough understanding of the proper temperatures that food should be stored at in order to prevent illness. Even though every transport vehicle is held to the strictest regulations regarding temperatures, you still need to check them. Foods that should be refrigerated should be transported in an environment of at least 41 degrees Fahrenheit or lower and foods that are frozen should be transported at 0 degrees Fahrenheit or colder. If the temperature of the vehicles is above these temperatures, the food should be rejected. Your employees should be trained on how to properly inspect a vehicle to ensure the safety of the food you receive.

The Temperature of the Meats

In order to ensure the safety of your customers and therefore your restaurant, you need to know that every meat, poultry, and seafood that enters your establishment is being held at its safe temperature. Fresh meat, lamb, pork, poultry, and seafood should all be at 40 degrees Fahrenheit or lower. Shellfish should be at 45 degrees Fahrenheit or lower. You should use a proper meat thermometer to determine the temperature of the meat. If any food is in the “danger zone” or above the temperatures noted above, they should be rejected. [2]

Food Inspection

The Appearance of the Meat

Aside from temperature, you or your employees will need to visually inspect the meat. Everything should look fresh and the packaging intact. If you find that anything looks suspicious, you are best to reject it. Following are some of the warning signs of fresh meat, poultry, or seafood that should be rejected:

  • Cartons that are not intact
  • Wrappers that look dirty
  • Any colored spots (purple, white, or brown, green)
  • Unusual odors
  • Ammonia smell to fish
  • Flesh that appears soft
  • Fish eyes that have a sunken in appearance
  • Open shells on fresh shellfish

If your food passes the temperature and visual inspection of you or your employees, it should immediately be placed into proper commercial refrigeration to ensure its continued safety. By taking the proper precautions before receiving fresh meat, fish, or poultry, you reduce the risk of food borne illness among your customers, enabling you to have a successful, profitable establishment with a great reputation for serving quality food.

[1] “FSIS Safety and Security Guidelines for the Transportation and Distribution of Meat, Poultry, and Egg Products.” USDA (Website). Retrieved from Accessed on April 24, 2015.

[2] “Safe Storage of Meat and Poultry: The Science Behind It.” University of Nebraska (Website). Retrieved from . Accessed on April 24, 2015.