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 East Hampton, 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 East Hampton Patch, we collected data on 62 markets in the East Hampton town, 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 an immediate heath risk, and "critical deficiencies" that pose a real hazard to customers. One critical violation and the market fails inspection.
How East Hampton Scored
While the area saw relatively few markets fail health inspections, there were a several local spots where state workers found problems.
Nelly's Deli in Montauk had the most critical issues in its latest failed health inspection in January. Workers cited the market for three separate violations for rat droppings in various parts of the store, as well as 16 general deficiencies related to dust and grime. Nelly's also failed inspection in April 2011 related to rat feces found in the market.
Meanwhile, the Chiquita Latina in East Hampton failed inspection in January when state workers found three live cockroaches under prep table as well as up to five cockroach larvae in an unused sauce pot.
Hamptons Seafood Co. also failed its most recent inspection in December 2012 when inspectors flagged the market for dirty, food-stained cutting boards and some cooked crab cakes whose internal temperatures were too high. Owner Peter Ambrose's events company, Peter Ambrose Events, also failed after inspectors found dirty cutting boards and a can opener caked with old food residue.
Another seafood shop, Gosman's Fish Market in Montauk, failed in 2012, though the reason was far more unusual than normally seen in the local reports. Inspectors cited the store for selling sushi-grade tuna without an approved hazard analysis and critical control points, or HACCP plan.
Lastly, East Hampton health food store Simply Sublime failed inspection in January for selling "Funky Granny" homemade pickled onions, relish and strawberry jelly that workers said could pose a health hazard. Inspectors destroyed nearly three pounds of the product.
When it came to general deficiencies that health inspectors do not consider to be health risks, Hampton Seafood Co. had the most at 31, often related to dirt, mold, mildew and even algae found in a lobster tank.
Multi Aquiculture Systems in Amagansett had 24 general violations, while Barnes Country Market in East Hampton had 23 deficiencies related to record keeping, cobwebs, dust and some warm deli meat.
On the other hand, Montauk Beer and Soda was one of the cleanest markets with two general violations for dusty floors and limited storage space.
See the map above for the full results.
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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