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, including Hauppauge, 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 Hauppauge Patch, we collected data on 24 markets in the area, 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.
RELATED: 5 Things You Should Know About Grocery Inspections
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 Hauppauge Scored
One of the few businesses to fail its 2012 inspections in Hauppauge isn't even a grocery store, but a warehouse that packages spices.
La Flor Spices on Hoffman Avenue failed its inspections twice in 2012, both times related to rat droppings found in the warehouse.
Company Vice President Dan LaTore told Patch he's already worked to fix the rat issue, which is common for warehouses.
RELATED: Spice Warehouse Defends Inspection Record
When it came to actual markets, only Bravo Supermarket on the Central Islip/Hauppauge border failed inspection in 2012 for one critical violation related to dirty, food-stained cutting boards.
When it came to general deficiencies, ShopRite on Route 347 earned the highest amount with 25, including violations for dirty equipment, soiled walls, workers without proper hair coverings and soiled shelving units, none of which posed a health hazard, inspectors said.
Waldbaums on Veterans Highway had 20 general deficiencies, mostly due to soiled surfaces, while the Breaktime Food Outlet on Oser Avenue had 19 general violations, including one for storing a bottle of spray cleanser on shelf in an exposed food area.
Paolo and Pablo and Lanco Corp. both had 17 general deficiencies. Lanco distributes promotional gifts used in trade shows, which includes some food items.
As for the cleanest stores in the area, the 7-11 market on Townline Road and Hess Express at the intersection of Route 347 and Route 111 had only two violations.
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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