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 in Malverne, West Hempstead and Lynbrook, state data shows.
Patch has compiled 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 Nassau County Department of Health, grocers in town are inspected by this state agency.
For Malverne-West Hempstead-Lynbrook Patch, we collected data on 66 markets in the Malverne, West Hempstead and Lynbrook area, ranging from major chain supermarkets to smaller meat or seafood shops, pharmacies and convenience stores.
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 Malverne, West Hempstead and Lynbrook Scored
A total of 13 stores throughout the three areas failed inspections in 2012. One of the stores -- Malverne’s Associated Supermarket -- is now closed.
El Salvador Deli, located at 282 Hempstead Turnpike in West Hempstead, was the only store to fail twice in 2012. Both failures -- dated Jan. 23 and March 15 of 2012 -- found “mouse droppings” in various areas of the store. However, the deli has not failed since the March 15 inspection.
Cross Island Fruits, located at 246 Hempstead Ave. in Lynbrook, has failed three of its last five inspections. The store failed one inspection a year from 2011 to 2013, most recently on Jan 24., 2013. That inspection found “20-50 fresh and old appearing mouse droppings … present along perimeter floor wall junctures in second floor storage areas.”
However, Cross Island passed its most recent inspection on May 2, 2013, and was found to have no critical deficiencies.
Prima Deli, which can be found at the same location as Cross Island, failed its one and only inspection for two violations: a small amount of live flies present in food processing area and the improper cleaning of a cheese band saw.
In December 2012, Western Beef in West Hempstead failed its first inspection since March 2006 because “three live birds are free flying and on rafter in rear food and non-food storage area.”
As for the cleanest in our area; Ninuzzo’s Italian Market -- located at 528 Merrick Road in Lynbrook -- had just six general deficiencies during an October 2012 inspection.
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 Nassau County Health Department at (516) 742-6154.
Check back tomorrow at 11 a.m. for part II of our local supermarket series.
With Henry Powderly.