In 1998, Hy-Vee became one of the first retailers in the Midwest to hire its own U.S. Department of Commerce (USDC) lot inspector to ensure the quality, safety and integrity of the fresh seafood it buys.
The USDC inspector is stationed on-site at our Perishable Distributors of Iowa (PDI) distribution facility in Ankeny, Iowa, where he routinely checks incoming shipments of fresh and frozen seafood, ensuring that it meets Hy-Vee’s standards. Our purchasing and sustainability policy is the strictest around. Our seafood team at PDI is meticulous in its sourcing and accountability of our suppliers. A big part of our seafood program’s success is partnering with suppliers that have the same beliefs as we do.
The USDC Inspection program is a voluntary seafood inspection service that assists in meeting U.S. regulations and generally accepted seafood production best practices governing fishery products for human consumption. This service supports seafood safety and includes sanitation inspection, system and process audits, grading and inspection and product laboratory analyses.
Bryan Sauve has been Hy-Vee’s full-time inspector since 2003. Bryan is on site five days a week to help us maintain high quality standards. In 2017, Sauve received the Silver Sherman award, which recognizes individuals who have performed work above his or her normal requirements, achieved a milestone that contributed significantly or critically toward the attainment of a particular program goal, and demonstrated leadership of significant magnitude.
We asked Bryan some questions about his work:
Q: What does a USDC Lot Inspector do? Why is it important?
A: A seafood lot inspector conducts inspections of seafood product that enter the facility on a daily basis. I also conduct daily and quarterly sanitation audits of the facility and seafood department area to ensure that the company meets the conditions required under the USDC Standards for Approved Establishments, and also verify that they are meeting the requirements of U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s mandatory Hazard Analysis Critical Control Point (HACCP) and Food Safety and Protection Programs. I also periodically collect product samples for analysis at our National Seafood Inspection Lab where the samples are further analyzed for possible pathogen growth and any unapproved additives or chemicals that may have been used at the processor level.
These steps and processes will provide the Hy-Vee customer the safest, freshest, most wholesome product possible.
Q: How long has Hy-Vee done this?
A: Hy-Vee has been under contract with the USDC Seafood Inspection Program since 1998 (23 years).
Q: What do you look for, specifically?
A: Lot inspections of seafood product involve verifying the label contents are accurate in regards to net weight and count declarations, country of origin, pack and sell by dates, allergen statements, and so on. My inspections involve analyzing the product for workmanship defects, quality and condition, and flavor and odor in the raw and cooked state. I also verify product temperature, and that net weights and counts meet label declaration. The USDC Inspection Program has product standards for specific product forms that detail exactly what to inspect for. Also, the company has detailed approved specifications with the Inspection Program that further details what attributes must be met. If a product does not meet these rigorous standards and specifications, it is rejected.
Q: What makes having an inspector on site a point of difference?
A: There are very few inspectors on our USDC staff that are stationed at a retailer’s distribution center, like Hy-Vee has. Having a seafood inspector on site ensures that the seafood product meets Hy-Vee and PDI specifications before being distributed to the individual stores. The distribution center is the “last stop” before entering the retail level, and will guarantee food safety, freshness and wholesomeness to the Hy-Vee customer.