Updates on Central Kitchen progress
Outpost Prepared Foods & Bakery Recall
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Tuesday, November 19, 2019
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To our Owners and Shoppers,
This Thanksgiving season I have a lot to be thankful for, and your loyalty to Outpost tops the list.
When our central kitchen closed at the end of August, none of us could have imagined the challenges that event would present over the next two months. Of great concern was customer safety with the results that were presented. We also knew the situation would immediately impact our sales and challenge us to keep our employees working. Relying on our central kitchen to do the bulk of our food production meant our individual store kitchens were no longer configured to produce the variety or volume of products needed.
A lot of work occurred behind the scenes. Other ready-to-eat bakery, salads, soups and entrees needed to be sourced elsewhere. We tasked our four café kitchens into action to help out and our culinary and store staff rose to the occasion. We knew that without additional food sales customers would go elsewhere to shop. We deployed central kitchen staff to work in our store kitchens where possible, shipping kits of ingredients and recipes of our most popular products to be made at each store. Other central kitchen staff worked out of store departments where shifts were available. A few staff left us for other employment, while several volunteered for unemployment. Now that our central kitchen is back in operation, we are very thankful for the loyalty of our staff who remain with us.
Outpost’s central kitchen is unique in that it is a licensed food production facility that holds several licenses issued by the state. Because of the complexity of the central kitchen’s food operations, the review process that Outpost underwent over the past months has been more involved than would typically be required by local health municipalities. Through additional testing both state and Outpost’s food safety expert were not able to detect any Salmonella bacteria in the kitchen environment, nor in any of the samples of food tested from the recall. Nevertheless, we moved forward examining our processes and procedures in cooperation with state authorities and provided them with updated documentation to get back up and running again.
Today we are more confident than ever that we are positioned to provide Outpost’s owners and shoppers with the safe and delicious natural and organic items you have grown to love from your co-op.
Going forward, with our renewed systems firmly in place, the continued growth and success of your co-op now depends on you! We need your patronage and support now more than ever before. While our insurance covered the food losses and some additional expenses incurred through this event, the loss of sales and customers over past few months was at a level we would anticipate during major road construction (oh - which also happened at the same time on Capitol Drive near our flagship store). In response we’ve trimmed back where possible, but at this point we need your help to grow our sales back again to a sustainable level. Strong sales mean more than a robust bottom line on a spreadsheet. It means Outpost can continue to support our lively co-op markets, expand a dynamic regional food system, grow strong community partnerships, implement sustainable and principled solutions, and provide an amazing place to work for our employees.
Here’s how you can help:
- Shop the co-op first. We offer a great selection of quality local, fresh and organic products, many at comparable market prices, so we urge you to think of us first when you plan your shopping trip.
- Give the gift of Outpost. This holiday season we are offering a special on Outpost Gift Cards and gift ownerships you can buy for yourself, friends, family and neighbors. We are offering $10 off a $50 future purchase for you when you purchase $100 in Outpost gift cards. This promotion runs December 1 – 31, 2019.
- Support small vendors. While many others in the market may stock local products, Outpost supports many of the small vendors who wouldn’t have a chance getting their products on the shelves of the larger grocery stores and chains. Your purchase with us truly supports their livelihood.
- Support a union shop. Outpost employees have been covered by the United Food and Commercial Workers for close to four decades. We work with the union to create a meaningful workplace that supports full-time employment with benefits rather than only part-time jobs found in much retail. Last year 58.6% of all union jobs at Outpost were full-time with benefits.
- Live Sustainably. We don’t operate behind any type of “greenwashing” – in fact we are honest and realistic about our goals. We’ve pledged to eliminate single-use plastic and with your support we can continue to spend additional resources in order to reach that goal, which in turn will lower our environmental impact on our earth.
Your co-op truly matters in our community. I appreciate anything you will do to help us continue successfully into our 50th year.
Thursday, October 10, 2019
To our owners and patrons of Outpost,
I want to continue to appreciate everyone who has patiently gone through this journey with Outpost over the past several weeks. At this juncture we can see the finish line and are excited to get back into production, once again providing you with the delicious natural and organic items you’ve grown to love from your co-op.
Some of you have asked why this is taking so long to reopen. We have come to understand that the processes we are used to working with can be foreign to someone who is more familiar with how restaurants, cafes, or other grocery deli operations function. This seemed like a good point in our timeline of reopening our kitchen to explain some of those differences.
What many have come to expect from Outpost is a wide variety of sandwiches, soups, salads, entrees, cakes, bars and the like, which we sell out of our store cafes. Most of those products are produced centrally in a state certified production kitchen that happens to be located behind our Bay View retail store. Because we also sell and distribute many of those products for sale at accounts in area hospital cafes, we fall under licensing that is very different from the licensing which our store cafes operate. Our store cafes are licensed in the city in which they operate, and jurisdiction and inspections occur from those municipalities. Our central kitchen holds three separate licenses issued by the State of Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection (DATCP). Once license is a dairy plant license for the cutting and repackaging of cheese; the second license is for the production of all food products to be distributed to our stores and resold from our wholesale accounts; and the third license is meat processing – which means using raw and/or precooked meat and seafood products as ingredients in our cooked and ready-to-eat products that contain meat.
So the reality is that Outpost is running a complex food manufacturing facility out of the area we call our central kitchen. We are a bit of an unusual model for the state since our product is highly perishable and made in very small batches by comparison to larger manufacturing operations. The way our facility operates also differs greatly from other deli or restaurants and requires detailed documentation, training, and oversight of production and of all of our procedures. That said we greatly appreciate the oversight the state provides in order for us to ensure the highest quality product for all of our customers.
We have taken the past several weeks following the state’s work to prepare ourselves for a new beginning, which included a comprehensive assessment of our facility and processes to ensure we were ready to reopen. The state has our required paperwork in hand, and we are waiting for them to provide us with a date to reopen. We want to thank all of you all so much for your trust, patience, and confidence through this entire process. We expect to announce our reopening date shortly and are excited to get that expanded variety of our great food back out into our stores once again.
Thank you again for your continued support.
Thursday, September 19, 2019
To Our Owners and Patrons of Outpost,
We have received quite a bit of positive feedback about the updates we’ve been providing over the past few weeks during our central kitchen shutdown. It’s clear to us that the loyalty of our customers is a direct result of the way the co-op has chosen to do business, and we thank you for your input.
Over the past week since the last update we have reached several additional milestones in moving forward to get our central kitchen reopened.
On September 16 my team and I met in Madison with key staff from the state Department of Agriculture, Trade, and Consumer Protection (DATCP). This meeting was clearly a cooperative effort to resolve any remaining issues in order to get us back to producing food again from our central kitchen facility. We continue to engage with our food safety experts we have hired to make continuous improvements to our processes and systems, creating both a corrective action plan, and updating the sanitation and food safety plans we have in place.
We continue to employ about 80% of our central kitchen staff at our stores in various departments including our store kitchens. You may have noticed some familiar products from Outpost are back in stock again – made fresh right from that store’s kitchen. We have also supplemented the selection of café items with ready to eat products from other vendors, to grow sales that support the additional staff hours we’ve deployed.
We will be working with the state DATCP team over the next few weeks to reopen the central kitchen facility as soon as possible. We will let you know our central kitchen opening date as soon as we know it.
Thanks again for all of your support.
Thursday, September 5, 2019
To Our Owners and Patrons of Outpost,
We greatly appreciate the support and encouragement you’ve provided us over the past week as we continue our quest to identify the source of the issues identified in the recall on August 23.
A number of milestones have occurred over the past week that we want you to know about:
- On August 27 the state Department of Agriculture, Trade, and Consumer Protection (DATCP) returned to our central kitchen facility to conduct additional testing in the kitchen environment and to test additional products that were made in the central kitchen and not sold after the recall. We received those results on September 4.
- Of the 71 total environmental swabs/samples taken from kitchen equipment and
surfaces, NO Salmonella bacteria was detected.
- Of the 27 total food products tested by the State, NO Salmonella bacteria was
- On August 29 we met with a Microbiologist and Food Safety expert and decided to retain his services to advise us going forward.
- We continue to critically review our safe food handling procedures to ensure the food produced in our café locations meets our quality expectations.
- We have deployed a number of our central kitchen Garde Manger, cooks, and bakers to each of our stores to produce some of your favorite Outpost items directly from those locations. Café employees at each store are also ramping up the selection of sandwiches, salads, hot bar and bakery items made available.
While all of these steps are positive, our central kitchen facility remains temporarily closed. Because we are not producing our regular volume of food to sell in our stores and to our wholesale accounts, our sales have dropped. And because we were not able to deploy all 60 employees from our central kitchen facility to our store locations, we have been forced to lay off some of those workers.
You may imagine that all of these circumstances combined have been very challenging. We need your support and patronage to continue to recover and to keep your co-op strong. I’ve personally decided to cook more meals from scratch rather than eat out, in order to patronize Outpost more frequently. Whatever choice you can make to support us at this time, is greatly appreciated.
Wednesday, August 28, 2019
Dear Owners and Patrons of Outpost,
To continue the transparency and flow of information we’ve already provided I’m here to give you an update on the recall announced last Friday.
We were surprised to learn that the Wisconsin Department of Health has reported illness in four cases from March – May 2019, with the Salmonella strain found in samples from our central kitchen facility in Bay View. We were notified of this information on August 27.
Our recall of prepared foods and bakery products dating back to August 19 was based on positive tests for the Salmonella bacteria that were taken on August 13 and given to Outpost on August 24. We take this situation very seriously and are responding with urgency to identify the source of the bacteria. Additional sampling has occurred by the State and we have hired a microbiologist and food safety expert to assist in our investigation. In the meantime, our central kitchen facility in Bay View remains closed; all store locations remain open. We continue to work with health officials during this process and are focused on establishing the steps necessary to assure we continue to meet the standards our owners and customers expect from us.
We have been operating our central kitchen facility for 14 years without serious incident and we are saddened to hear of any illnesses reported.
If you show any symptoms of illness that you believe is a result of products purchased at Outpost, you should contact your local health professional.
All of us at Outpost sincerely thank you for your continued support and patronage. Your support right now, in any way you can, keeps our employees working and our co-op family strong.
Pam Mehnert, General Manager
Tuesday, August 27, 2019
More testing was conducted in our central kitchen production facility today by the Wisconsin Department of Trade and Consumer Protection. We continue to work with them on resolving the source of the contamination.
Outpost is committed to food safety and quality in all of our operations. We have hired a microbiologist food safety expert and have enlisted the aid of the National Co-op Grocers’ food safety and regulations consultant. These professionals will help us to meet our food safety goals.
Our central kitchen production facility in Bay View remains closed. All of our store locations are open.
Thank you for your continued support and patronage.
Monday, August 26, 2019
Outpost exists to provide quality and delicious food for our owners and our community.
On Friday afternoon, August 23, the state inspector who is onsite daily, and assigned to oversee production at our central kitchen, gave us a “hold order” restricting us from producing Outpost made prepared foods and bakery products from that facility. We were notified to cease production because a strain of salmonella was found in a sample provided to the state inspector for testing. It was unclear where the pathogen came from.
Notices of the recall were posted in the store and all food included in the recall was removed from stores as well as wholesale accounts.
- Our customers were notified through email, social media and via our website
- Local media was notified
- We established a team to be on call to receive and respond to any inquiries
On Sunday, August 25, we posted a complete list of all items included in the recall to the recall page on our website. (see below)
Over the weekend, we have heard from Outpost owners and customers relating questions about which products were recalled, what information we knew, and when we would have their favorite products in stock again.
Since the initial notification on Friday afternoon, we have received no further communication or information from the state, including any inspection reports. Details on the “insanitary conditions” mentioned by the state in its media report have not yet been provided to us.
On Friday, our management team personally inspected each store café and meat department to make sure all standard food safety sanitation procedures remain in place. On Friday, our Bay View store location was inspected by the City of Milwaukee and was given an A rating.
On Monday, August 26, the state inspector will return with a detailed report on what they found. Once this information is in hand by Outpost, we can then begin to seek out proper remediation and steps to get our food production at our central kitchen back online and open.
We will continue to provide regular and timely updates of our progress. Our store cafes are open and making sandwiches, as well as hot bar and salad bar features, so we can continue to provide delicious store-made food to our owners and shoppers. Additionally, we will be adding other quality vendors to expand our fresh food offerings at this time.
Thank you for your continued support and patronage!
Friday, August 23, 2019
The quality and safety of our products is paramount to who we are and what we do at Outpost Natural Foods Co-op. Out of an abundance of caution, we are recalling certain products made at our central production facility, which is located at the same address, but separate from our Bay View store.
Sample batches for the State Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection tested positive for Salmonella bacteria. The ready-to-eat products affected are: cold salads, pizzas, wraps, ready-to-heat entrees such as burritos, pot pies, savory turnovers, select hot bar items and Outpost labeled bakery items. Please see below for a comprehensive list of items, by category. We don’t know at this time if the positive test is the result of purchased ingredients or something at the facility.
We are following the DATCP directive and temporarily stopping production out of the central kitchen until we determine the origin.
Any of the products mentioned above and purchased at Outpost between August 19, 2019 and August 23, 2019, should be discarded or returned to any Outpost location for a refund or credit.
This recall does not impact any food produced at our individual store locations.
This recall does not impact any meat sales or production at our stores.
All stores are open for business.
We apologize for any inconvenience and will keep you posted on further developments.
Product Recall Listing of Outpost Natural Foods Cooperative
Central Production Kitchen Produced Items
August 19 – August 23, 2019
Please note –
- Item labels will show this address: 2826 S. Kinnickinnic Ave. Milwaukee, WI 53207.
- Items produced by our individual stores or by outside vendors and packed by us, are NOT impacted by this recall.
- This recall is only for prepared foods and bakery items. Store meat department items are NOT impacted by this recall and we continue to be licensed to sell meat and all other products at our stores.
- If you are unsure if an item was produced by our central production kitchen please discard it, or return the item for a refund.
Oatmeal Chocolate Chip
Pecan Chocolate Chip
CBD Oil Mint Chocolate Chip
Wheat-free Chocolate Chip
RawRaw Chocolate Chip Coconut Balls
Little Oaties - Classic, Mocha, Wheat-free Classic, Wheat-free Mocha
Chocolate Indulgence Brownies
Crispy Rice Peanut Chocolate
Crispy Rice Sunflower Chocolate
Marble Cheesecake Brownies
Chocolate Flourless Chocolate
Sour Cream Coffee
Lemon Poppy Seed
Wheat-free Vegan Banana Chocolate
Wheat-free Vegan Yellow
Apple Cherry Crumble
Apple Double Crust
Banana Flax Chocolate Chip
Wheat-free Cheese with Red Sauce
Wheat-free Chicken Artichoke
Wheat-free Sausage Supreme
Soups - may have been sold via hot soup wells or packaged
Creamy Lentil with Bacon
Kale and Sweet Potato
Mama's Veggie Chili
Hot Bar Side Dishes - may have been sold vial hot bar or packaged
Kale Sesame Mushrooms
Kale w/ White Beans
Roasted Taco Vegetables
Hot Bar Entrees - may have been sold via hot bar or packaged
Beef Carne Con Papas
Chicken Tikka Masala
Four Cheese Mac & Cheese
Italian Sausage with Peppers & Onions
Kerala Pork Curry
Moo Goo Gai Pan
Red Beans & Gumbo
Roasted Lemon Chicken Breasts
Roasted Vegetable Lasagna
Spinach Coconut Dal
Sweet & Sour Tofu
Szechuan Braised Meatballs
Tinga De Pollo
Turkey Meatloaf with BBQ Sauce
Turkey Taco Filling
Chicken with Salsa
Chorizo with Cheddar Cheese
Spicy Chorizo with Ghost Peppers
Two Bean with Salsa
Sweet Potato Black Bean Quinoa
Ham and Potato
Dips & Spreads
Hummus – all varieties
Salsa del Norte
Walnut Basil Pesto
Walnut Pecan Paté
Grab & Go Entrees and Sides
Caribbean Cod Fritters
Classic Turkey Meatballs
Double Baked Potatoes
Grilled Marinated Chicken Breast
Roasted Butternut Squash
Caribbean Sweet Potato
Country Style Potato
Couscous Feta Fava
East Indian Bean
Kung Pao Tofu
Mango Curry Chicken Salad
Orzo with Spinach & Feta
Red Curry Tofu
Roasted Red Potato
Rock River Tuna
Tofu Vegan “Egg”
Tuna Vegetable Pasta
Mediterranean Lunch Box
Spinach Maple Vinaigrette
Herb & Shallot Turkey with Goat Cheese
Italian Ham & Swiss
Roast Beef with Horseradish Cheddar
Rock River Tuna
Smoked Turkey & Smoked Baby Swiss
Red Curry Tofu