“I was afraid someone could get sick,” Lindsey Reed said as she shared with First Coast News cell phone video she took inside the Jacksonville Save-A Lot grocery store on Lem Turner Road Wednesday afternoon.
The store’s power had just come back on when Reed and a friend went shopping. They were hoping to find food for their families as supplies were running low in the wake of Hurricane Irma.
The video shows Reed and her friend displaying and easily folding in half food such as a pizza that is supposed to be kept frozen.
“The boxes that the frozen dinners and pizzas in were like wet,” Reed said adding, “where the stuff had thawed and the condensation or whatever had wet the cardboard so it was all warped!”
She said she witnessed store employees putting clearly defrosted food back into freezers.
“I know it had thawed out,” she exclaimed. “I know for a fact because I touched it.”
Reed took out her phone and started filming.
“I’m like I got to do something,” she recalled.
She said when the clerks noticed her filming them, they began dumping some of the food that they had been putting in the freezer on the floor.
Reed tried calling the USDA to report what she had seen and filmed, but could not get anyone to answer the phone. So, she turned to First Coast News’s On Your Side Investigative team.
We visited the store and found what Reed described, frozen meals and pizzas in damp, mushy feeling boxes.
A store employee told us they had been able to save their food from the storm by putting it in a refrigerated truck and brought it back out after their power was restored two and a half days after losing it.
First Coast News contacted the Florida Department of Agriculture about Reed’s video. The state agency sent inspectors to the store Thursday afternoon.
A store manager told First Coast News we could not film in the store during the inspection and asked our investigative crew to leave.
After the inspection, Chon Tomlin, a corporate spokesperson for Save-A-Lot, told First Coast News, “Someone at the store made a poor decision. It is not our company policy to ever try to salvage products after a disaster. The employees involved are being coached.”
Tomlin also said they’re sending in district and corporate managers to the store to ensure nothing like this happens there again.
The Florida Department of Agriculture has not yet released what their inspectors found, but Tomlin with Save-A-Lot says they were cleared, at the time, of having any unsafe food on the shelves.