Rats, insects, dirty floors and unsanitized surfaces. While not surprising on a train platform or the edge of the Gowanus Canal, these same critters and dirty instances are shockingly found in hundreds of supermarkets all throughout the city.
In New York City, there were 847 grocery stores that received at least one violation between May 15, 2014 and June 5, 2015, according to data from the New York Division of Food Safety and Inspection of the state’s Department of Agriculture and Markets.
Of those that were cited, about 56.6% of them received 10 or more violations, according to the data.
Violations included insect infested food; potentially hazardous foods not being stored at the correct temperatures; insect, rodent, bird or vermin activity in the store that was likely to result in contamination; and toilet facilities not being installed, or maintained properly.
“In a way it’s not surprising — we do live in New York City,” said Jasmine Rodriguez, 19. The Lower East Side resident was shopping at the Whole Foods Market in the Bowery, which was cited for 19 violations. “There should be a way the amount of rodents are controlled.”
In Brooklyn, there were 359 grocery stores with at least one violation, the most of any borough. Manhattan had the second-most violations with 152.
Leetah McGee, 24, a fashion designer from Fort Greene, said she shops at the Greene Avenue Market every few weeks. The market was last inspected on June 4, and cited for 20 violations: one critical, and 19 others, including “insect, rodent, bird, or vermin activity likely to result in product contamination.” The store, near Cumberland Street, was one of eight in Brooklyn to receive 20 or more violations.
McGee said she would probably continue to shop there anyway because of the relationships she’s fostered.
“On the surface it looks good, but I never would’ve known,” McGee said. “I feel like those stores should have a grade, so people can know because it is their health.”
Kay Lee, the owner of Greene Avenue Market, said she has tried hard since completing renovations last year to combat the issue of rats coming in to the store, which she suspects come from the backyard behind the market. Lee said she brings an exterminator in at least once a month.
The Nostrand Avenue Met Foods in Crown Heights, near St Johns Place, was cited for 21 violations, including one critical incident of rodent defiled foods or ingredients. Their last inspection was April 22. A manager for the store declined to comment.
Candia Williams, a hospital lab technician who lives in Crown Heights, said she has been shopping at the store for years and has never gotten sick, but has noticed an odor.
“The only thing I’ll say is that it smells,” said Williams, 40. “I’ve been buying food from here and I haven’t gotten anything nasty … but maybe I’ll have to find someplace else.”
At the Whole Foods on East Houston Street, Lower East Side resident Nikki Delventhal was surprised to learn the high-end grocer had violations. The Bowery supermarket’s violations included “insect, rodent, bird or vermin activity likely to result in product contamination” and “potentially hazardous foods are not stored at safe temperatures.” A representative for Whole Foods didn’t comment on the data.”You go to Whole Foods because you expect it’s wholesome all over,” said Delventhal, 28. “It’s clearly deceiving and it’s upsetting. You want to have confidence that where you’re going it’s the best quality.”