Inspections take place where food is produced, shipped, processed,
or sold to check compliance with food safety and labeling laws.
The potential hazard of the food or the process determines how many
inspections are done annually.
Approximately 115 Food Inspectors working statewide in the Division
of Food Safety and Inspection conduct inspections in approximately
28,000 food establishments which include grocery stores, supermarkets,
manufacturing/processing plants, beverage plants, food warehouses,
wholesale bakeries, and food salvage dealers.
Food inspectors routinely collect food samples and send them to
the State Food Laboratory for analysis. However, they are empowered
to seize food or seek a court order closing a facility when a violation
found during an inspection warrants immediate public safety action.
At the Grocery Store
Inspectors routinely inspect grocery stores throughout the state
to check sanitary conditions, food preparation procedures, and storage
conditions, as well as compliance with licensing, pricing, labeling,
and point-of-purchase advertising regulations. It is always a practice
to collect samples of fresh, in-store packaged and processed food
and send them to the State Food Lab for analysis. Inspectors also
make investigatory visits, many of which are prompted by consumer
Regardless of the initial purpose of the inspection, if the inspectors
eyes or nose detects anything out of order during the visit, the
inspection will broaden. Any infractions of the law will trigger
enforcement action. Food Inspectors are quick to spot insanitary
meat grinders, meat or milk cases which are too warm, unsafe soup
or salad handling procedures, and soggy "frozen" vegetables.
Evidence of rodent or insect activity at the store will bring enforcement,
as will inaccurate record-keeping and improper facilities to allow
employees to practice good personal hygiene.
When warranted, inspectors can place entire food shipments under
seizure until diagnostic testing is complete and the inspector either
clears the food for sale, puts some condition on its sale, or orders
it held for destruction following a Hearing. "Traceback"
investigations to other points in the food distribution system (i.e.
producer or processor) may also be initiated. For example, when
the New York State Department of Health investigated a Salmonella
enteritidis outbreak caused by contaminated raw shelled eggs, Division
Inspectors assisted in tracing problem eggs back to producers in
other states. These producers are then prohibited from shipping
any more eggs into New York State until their flocks have been tested
and found to be free of Salmonella enteritidis.
At the Warehouse
sanitation, and storage conditions are the main focus of inspections
at the 2,400 warehouses located throughout New York State. Food
Inspectors make sure licenses are in force and conduct visual inspections
of the physical plant to establish that it is in good condition,
clean, dry, and free of animal or insect infestation. They check
refrigeration equipment, take air temperature readings, look for
evidence of spoilage, and collect food samples for physical, chemical,
and microbiological analyses. When violations occur, enforcement
action is taken, including food seizures.
There are approximately 2,800 food processing facilities in New
York State. Once again, inspectors verify licensing and check for
proper sanitary conditions. Since fresh food is undergoing change
here, the process and equipment used are under close scrutiny. For
example, raw fish is shipped to a smokehouse operation for processing.
Salting or brining, heating, and finished product temperature are
critical to product safety so inspection of these process operation
as critical control points is very thorough. Violations can result
in immediate plant closure through summary license suspensions or
injunction actions brought in New York State courts.