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Friday, October 16, 2009

Whatever Happened to the Safeway Food That Spilled Onto the Bay Bridge? You May Be Eating It.

Posted By on Fri, Oct 16, 2009 at 12:01 AM

click to enlarge It's an amusing photo, but, technically, when food falls off the back of a truck, the general public has no right to purloin it - TRUCKSPILLS.COM
  • It's an amusing photo, but, technically, when food falls off the back of a truck, the general public has no right to purloin it
It turns out that the can of vegetables you serve for dinner in the near future may have a more interesting story to tell than you do.

You've probably read about the Safeway truck that sped through the Bay Bridge's new "S-curve," lost it, and dumped foodstuffs along the roadway. Clearing up vittles -- and the capsized truck -- closed four of the bridge's five westbound lanes from around 2 p.m. to 8:15 p.m. on Wednesday.

Drivers waddling past in the one remaining lane may have grown hungry looking at all those edible goods while they moved at the speed of a crippled field mouse. Yet, according to a Safeway representative, they may yet have the chance to eat the food they saw on the bridge.

"Well, what we normally do is take everything back to our Tracy distribution warehouse and obviously throw out anything that's damaged or perishable," says Susan Houghton, Safeway's Northern California director of public and government affairs. "We do have cooperative arrangements with food banks. But as long as something's not damaged, we restock it."

So, produce, boxes, or other goods that fall off of trucks and are too bruised to be marketable -- but are still edible -- go to feed the hungry. Since almost everything in the upturned Bay Bridge truck was defined as "canned goods," much of it will soon end up back on store shelves (the frozen pizzas that purportedly skidded across four lanes ended up in the trash, however).

Caltrans spokesman Bart Ney confirmed that a number of Californians seem to believe there's a Law of the Sea, finders keepers-like rule applying to food bouncing along the road. "I think that does tend to happen," he says. "Especially when stuff falls off the freeway and into neighborhoods."

In fact, that food still belongs to whomever owned it in the first place. And that brings up a question neither Ney nor Houghton could answer: When Caltrans is forced to clean Safeway's property off public highways, who pays for that? In this case, 20 Caltrans maintenance employees worked many hours to clear up that road. Do they hand Safeway a bill, Safeway cashier-style?

Caltrans' legal division  responded that, if they desire, they can indeed ask for compensation from entities responsible for befouling the roadway (this is what happened after the MacArthur Maze meltdown). As for whether this incident will end up costing Safeway, Caltrans did not have an answer at this point.

Update -- Friday, 12:30 p.m.: Safeway's Susan Houghton provides us with some specifics:

What, specifically, was in the truck that crashed on the Bay Bridge?

Dry Groceries, liquor and Frozen Groceries.

What happened to that cargo?

We will sort through it for any undamaged product, the rest will go to our product recovery center for disposition (dispose of, return for credit, donate etc...) I was able to see the truck this AM and most of its cargo did not spill onto the roadway.

Finally, in situations such as this when the CHP or Caltrans is forced to use its workers to clear your cargo, do they ask for compensation?

We have been billed in previous type situations. While we have not heard from the CHP or Caltrans on this one as yet, we'll work cooperatively with them on what they need and/or costs.

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About The Author

Joe Eskenazi

Joe Eskenazi

Joe Eskenazi was born in San Francisco, raised in the Bay Area, and attended U.C. Berkeley. He never left. "Your humble narrator" was a staff writer and columnist for SF Weekly from 2007 to 2015. He resides in the Excelsior with his wife, 4.3 miles from his birthplace and 5,474 from hers.


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