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 the Miller Place-Rocky Point area, 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.
RELATED: 5 Things You Should Know About Grocery Inspections
For Miller Place-Rocky Point Patch, we collected data on 33 markets in the Miller Place, Rocky Point and Sound Beach 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.
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 Miller Place-Rocky Point Scored
The Cow Palace butcher shop was on of the few markets to fail inspection, though this storefront failed three times in 2012. Each time, inspectors found issues with the company's vacuum sealing practices for certain cheeses and pre-made stuffings, though the store also failed for dirty cutting boards full of food residue.
However, Cow Palace owner Tino Massoto said inspectors were nitpicking when it came to his vacuum sealing practices, though the butcher made the required changes and passed their most recent inspection in February.
RELATED: Cow Palace to Inspectors: Moo-ve Along
Del Fiore Italian Pork Store also failed inspection in 2012. Inspectors found two critical violations: Dirty cutting boards with food residue and a buildup of old food particles on a pasta machine conveyor belt.
Handy Pantry in Sound Beach passed inspection in 2012, but failed its most recent inspection in January for having residue caked on cappuccino fill cups.
When it came to general deficiencies, Cow Palace again had the most, with citations related to dirty work surfaces, employees drinking beverages in the service area and failing to maintain cooking temperature records for roast beef.
The Sound Beach Village Market had 19 of these general violations related to dust grease and malfunctioning thermometers. Inspectors do not consider general deficiencies a health risk.
Oceans Five Seafood market had 14 general violations, including one for not having a sneeze guard on the bread display counter.
As for the cleanest stores in the area, the Rocky Point Rite Aid had four general deficiencies while the CVS in Miller place had three.
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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