While mold, insects, rats and dust may sound like we're listing plagues, these are actually common violations found in supermarkets and grocery stores across Long Island, but to a lesser degree in Commack, state data show.
Patch has pulled together information on grocery store inspections across New York state to create our exclusive interactive map, culled from public data supplied by the state's Department of Agriculture and Markets. Unlike restaurants, which are inspected by the Suffolk County Department of Health, grocers in town are inspected by this state agency.
For Commack Patch, we collected data on 37 markets in town, ranging from major chain supermarkets to smaller meat or seafood shops, pharmacies and convenience stores. And while sushi restaurants are inspected by the county, sushi stands located in grocery stores are inspected by the state.
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In the data above you find results of a store's latest food safety inspection as of Jan. 30, and the location’s past performance. Violations are either listed as "general deficiencies," which inspectors say did not present a heath risk, and "critical deficiencies" that pose a real hazard to customers. One critical violation and the market fails inspection.
How Commack Scored
Unlike the nearby communities of Kings Park, Smithtown and Hauppauge, no markets in Commack failed inspection in 2012, meaning investigators found zero critical issues in town markets.
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When it came to general deficiencies, the King Kullen on Veterans Highway had the highest, with 15 violations mostly related to store cleanliness and one dead cockroach.
Scott's Five Star Meats had the second highest, with 10 general violations for cleanliness, storage practices and thawing practices. None were considered a threat to public health.
King Kullen Vice President of Store Operations Anthony Femminella said the Long Island-based chain is proud of its inspection history, and told Patch that the deficiencies are addressed within days of the inspections.
"We go to great lengths to safeguard the well being of our customers and employees and take that responsibility very seriously," he said.
As for the cleanest stores in the area, smaller outlets had the fewest violations, with Commack Florist and Gifts having two, Mung Bean Natural Food and Vitamins having three and Trader Joe's having five.
However, five markets in town haven't seen inspectors since 2011: Waldbaums, the Larkfield Road Rite Aid, Hess Express at 5087 East Jericho, Edible Arrangements and the 7-11 at 6230 Jericho Turnpike.
According to the state, there were 110 inspectors on the state’s payroll in 2012 responsible for about 31,000 retail food stores and around 6,200 food warehouses, wineries and other processors. Delis are included in the department’s inspections if 50 percent or less of their business is selling ready-to-eat food.
"They are our eyes and ears behind the scenes," said Robert Gravani, a professor at Cornell University who trains state inspectors.
Inspectors show up unannounced, and can spend as little as hour or more than a day inspecting a store, said Stephen Stich, Director of Food Safety and Inspection at the department.
The Inspection System
In 29 percent of the 30,372 retail food store inspections conducted statewide in 2012, the inspector found one or more problems that could make customers sick, Patch’s analysis of public records shows.
If an inspector finds a serious hazard to food safety, the store fails the inspection. Our analysis found more than 5,300 stores across the state failed an inspection last year, and more than 1,100 stores failed more than once. The department can fine the store up to $600 for the first critical deficiency, and double that amount for any more critical problems.
The department does more than just hand out fines. Sometimes, inspectors supervise supermarket employees as they correct violations on the spot, such as sanitizing dirty deli slicers, Stich said. Inspectors also hold in-store trainings to educate employees on the importance of food safety.
"These companies want to do things right," Gravani said. "Sometimes they fall down. That’s why you have a regulatory system."
Shoppers should call state inspectors with complaints about their local supermarket, such as spoiled food, Stich said.
You can reach the Long Island and NYC regional office, located in Brooklyn, at 718-722-2876.
But if you think food from the supermarket made you sick, contact your local health department, Stich said.
You can reach the Suffolk County Health Department at 631-854-0000.
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