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 Smithtown, 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 Smithtown Patch, we collected data on 58 markets in the Smithtown, St. James and Nesconset 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 an immediate heath risk, and "critical deficiencies" that pose a real hazard to customers. One critical violation and the market fails inspection.
How Smithtown Scored
Of all the markets in town, Uncle Giuseppe's on Route 111 had by far the worst record for health inspections in 2012, failing inspection twice. In its last inspection, the grocer was slapped with 7 critical violations, 50 general violations and one seizure, where nearly 5 pounds of baked goods were destroyed by inspectors.
Mercep Brothers meats in St. James and S&V Convenience Store in Smithtown both failed inspections earlier in 2012, but passed their more recent inspections.
When it came to general deficiencies, Costco in Nesconset was cited for 19 violations, including cracked flooring, overloaded shelves and a dirty chicken rotisserie area. Stop & Shop in Smithtown and King Kullen in St. James both had 18 general violations, though Stop & Shop hasn't had an inspection since November 2011.
That's recent compared to Handy Pantry in Nesconset, which last saw inspectors in July 2010.
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, the historic St. James General store, which sells candies and chocolate, only had two general deficiencies. The same went for the area's newest 7-11 on the corner of Route 347 and Terry Road: 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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