Not so sunny findings in the Sunshine State’s grocery stores

South Florida Sun-Sentinel analyzed hundreds of thousands of grocery store inspection reports between 2005 and 2008 and found a 22 per cent increase in food safety violations.

About one in five food retailers failed at least one inspection from 2005 through July 1 of this year, and some failed as many as nine, the reports showed.

Vermin infestations rose 35 percent, with more than one in four stores having signs of rodents or roaches last year…A growing number of markets were cited for the high-risk practices of letting foods get too warm or too cool, employees coming to work sick or not washing their hands, and raw animal products contaminating other food.

John Fruin, chief of grocery inspections at the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, explained the increase on a change in inspection format.

"There has been a shift in our inspection philosophy. We’re looking harder for those things that are more apt to cause food-borne disease. And we’re finding more."

The story continues,

No one contends food stores are a major health risk. Cases of consumers getting sick from food sold in grocery stores are rare. The large majority of supermarkets, convenience stores, bakeries, seafood shops and other retailers regulated by the state scored the highest ranking of "good" or passed with "fair" ratings, the reports show.

How anyone can contend that consumers don’t get sick from grocery stores is beyond me. Most cases of foodborne illness go unreported, and if they are reported it may be difficult to track the source back to a food retailer. Whether the increase in food safety violations at grocery stores translates to an increase in foodborne illness cases? Maybe, maybe not. I’m more interested in whether consumers want grocery stores to publicly display inspection scores like food service operations in many districts.