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With Grocery Store Inspections, Few Bad Apples in Northern Suffolk

While locals were concerned over failures at Uncle Giuseppe's and Key Food, most markets in the region checked out just fine.

Published: March 17, 2013 at 11:41 PM

Click here for a full page view of the map.

Inspectors cited one store for cluttered cabinets. Another was slapped with a violation for dusty shelves. But these types of no-health-risk violations made up the bulk of the issues found in state inspection results for Northern Suffolk County, where save for a few offenders, most markets got clean bills of health.

Patch 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, groceries, minimarts, convenience stores, food warehouses and gas station markets are inspected by this state agency.

Last week, we released the data in Kings Park, Commack, Hauppauge, Smithtown, Three Village, Port Jefferson and Miller Place-Rocky Point. Here is a recap of how they fared.

The Few That Failed

Perhaps the most shocking thing to come out of he data was the inspection track record for the Uncle Giuseppe's supermarket chain. The Smithtown store, where inspectors had to destroy nearly 8 pounds of canolis that posed a health hazard, has failed eight inspections and passed nine since opening in 2005. Many times, inspections were prompted by complaints from shoppers that the food had made them sick. In Port Jefferson, where the new market has only had four inspections since its 2010 opening, Uncle Giuseppe's failed three of them.

It takes only one "critical" violation for a store to fail and inspection.

"Whereas other supermarkets purchase food from other companies, or prepare it offsite and warehouse the products in their stores, almost everything we sell is made from scratch. As a result, minor violations are more prevalent in Uncle Giuseppe’s than in a location that does not directly handle food and ingredients as often," company spokeswoman Arielle Brechisci said in the statement.

RELATED: Uncle's Giuseppe's Problems

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.

Meanwhile, residents of Kings Park were shocked to learn that their only local supermarket, Key Food, also has a history of failed health inspections, often due to rodent problems at the shop.

For example, the market failed its July 30, 2012 inspection when state workers found rodent feces in a meat walk-in box, under a work table in a produce prep room, on the floor in the compactor room, under the motor room staircase, in the dairy box and under racks in the produce walk-in box. Before that, on March 13, 2012, inspectors found more than 200 mouse droppings in the stock room.

Key Food corporate parent Hempstead-based Dan's Supreme Supermarkets declined to comment.

RELATED: Key Food Gets Failing Grades

The other failures in the area included La Flor Spices in Hauppauge, a warehouse for packaged spices that has battled a rodent problem. In Port Jefferson, Kayla Express Store failed in January for not having a two- or three-bay sink for sanitizing equipment while Dollar Tree failed after inspectors had to destroy 20 pounds of cans at that store that were dented at the seams.

In Rocky Point, favorite local butcher Cow Palace failed a string of inspections in a row over technicalities with its vacuum sealing operation.

"There's no book, no novel to go to that says, 'You cannot mix the two products you vacuum pack and freeze them.' And you learn the hard way and get written up and get a fine," said owner Tino Massotto.

RELATED: Cow Palace to Inspectors: Moo-ve Along

Del Fiore Italian Pork Store also failed inspection in 2012 after workers found two critical violations: Dirty cutting boards with food residue and a buildup of old food particles on a pasta machine conveyor belt.

Generally Good

While the few failures above represented the biggest issues in the area, the bulk of the hundreds of local markets we examined passed inspections and were only cited for "general" deficiencies that the state doesn't deem health risks.

In Commack, the King Kullen on Veterans Highway had 15 violations mostly related to store cleanliness and one dead cockroach, while Scott's Five Star Meats had 10 general violations for cleanliness, storage practices and thawing practices.

RELATED: Commack Fav ShopRite Gets Clean Bill of Health

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.

In Three Village, King Kullen-owned Wild By Nature had the most general violations in town with 19, citing dust, soiled surfaces, lack of thermometers in certain areas and an improperly hung strip of fly paper, none of which posed a health hazard to customers, inspectors said in the report.

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.

Nearby Waldbaums had 17 general deficiencies, also related to dust, thermometers and a single live fly, though the supermarket also hasn't seen inspectors since 2011. Setauket Quality Meats also had 17 of these violations, including a citation for sawdust in the store.

In Port Jefferson, the Bravo Supermarket in Port Jefferson Station had the most general issues with 24 violations, mostly related to problems with its hand washing equipment, dust and workers eating food in certain areas and not wearing hair coverings. Upper Main Deli and Grocery had 18 general deficiencies including citations for mold and dirty surfaces. So did Pathmark, with 18 violations including one for heavy frost buildup in the reach-in freezer.

Guintas Meat Farms had 17 violations, including ones for dust and a single live fly, as did esteemed bakery La Bonne Boulangerie, whose 17 deficiencies included a citation for an employee pocketbook that was stored in a frosting area.

In Miller Place-Rocky Point, The Sound Beach Village Market had general violations related to dust grease and malfunctioning thermometers. Oceans Five Seafood market had 14 general violations, including one for not having a sneeze guard on the bread display counter.

Most markets had between zero and five general violations, including the area's one Whole Foods market in Lake Grove, which had one citation for some moldy cheese.

See the map above and tell us how your favorite market ranked.

Michelle B March 18, 2013 at 05:54 PM
lol!!! Who was shocked? I certainly was not! "Meanwhile, residents of Kings Park were shocked to learn that their only local supermarket, Key Food, also has a history of failed health inspections, often due to rodent problems at the shop"
Sheryl Freed March 18, 2013 at 07:32 PM
So, the moral of this story seems to be..."Don't buy the expensive preprepared foods?"
K. March 19, 2013 at 12:35 PM
I am guessing that there are similar articles hurried out all over the country now; the Administration promised potential sickness and death as a result of the "sequester-mandated" decreased food-inspections. Since few would probably actually feel any effects, articles like this bring the (unfounded) fear home; people are manipulated into believing (if only subliminally) that they are experiencing the effects personally. The next thing you know, your local parade will be affected or a local airport's TSA workers will be working even slower in order to increase and compound the perception.
Alan Barton February 03, 2014 at 07:42 PM
what about shoprite in hauppauge?

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