Fancy food ain’t safe food: esteemed New York markets fined for failing safety inspections

Foodies may hail Whole Foods in White Plains and H Mart in Hartsdale, but last year state inspectors failed both, giving them the region’s biggest fines for food safety violations.

The specialty markets, beloved by some shoppers for their vast aisles of organic and ethnic foods, were cited last year for improperly cleaned meat grinders and excessively WHOLEFOODS01scored cutting boards — critical violations that contributed to each store receiving fines of $3,000, state records obtained by The Journal News show.

The stores are among 1,495 establishments in Putnam, Rockland and Westchester visited over the past five years by inspectors from the state Department of Agriculture & Markets, the agency that regulates retailers selling and preparing food.

No matter how clean a store might appear to shoppers, state inspection records show that most venues end up with some kind of violation, usually for minor issues. State law requires that supermarkets be inspected annually.

“Ninety-seven percent of the larger supermarkets in (the) three-county area have passed our most recent inspection, which means there were no critical deficiencies,” said Steve Stich, director of food safety and inspection at the Department of Agriculture & Markets.

The state agency has about 95 inspectors who conduct more than 30,000 annual inspections statewide at all the food establishments and wholesale food manufacturers that hold state permits. The Journal News obtained dataon five years of inspections through a Freedom of Information Law request.