Pol: Inspect, grade food markets too


| brennison@queenscourier.com |

A local politician wants to make sure supermarkets are making the grade — 24 hours a day.

Senator Tony Avella has proposed that the city’s Department of Health and Mental Hygiene be given jurisdiction over food markets in the five boroughs, an authority only the state’s Department of Agriculture & Markets currently has.

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Currently, the state’s agriculture department conducts inspections of food stores, from smaller retailers to supermarkets. Inspectors from the Department of Agriculture & Markets routinely examine sanitary conditions, food preparation procedures and storage conditions at food markets.

“I mean part of the problem is that the city has no jurisdiction over supermarkets. I mean obviously the state doesn’t have the proper number of inspectors,” Avella said. “When there is a complaint, there is the issue of a timely inspection.”

There are approximately 115 food inspectors who have jurisdiction over more than 28,000 markets.

Avella brought up the example of the Hillside Avenue Halal Market that had received numerous complaints. One of the complaints was that meat and poultry was being delivered in an unrefrigerated truck, but since the deliveries came at night, there was no way for the Department of Agriculture to find out — no inspections after 5 p.m.

“[The city] makes night inspections, and they can have quicker response time. Why not have the city have some jurisdictions,” Avella asked.

Under the proposal, the city and state would have concurrent jurisdiction.

Avella also said giving the city jurisdiction would stop restaurants from classifying themselves as food markets to evade the city health inspectors.

Currently, the city’s health department inspects and hands out letter grades to restaurants. Avella said expanding the letter grades to markets may be something that is discussed in meetings with the city.

“I think it’s a real consumer issue. This will make sure [markets] are following the code,” Avella said. “There is the opportunity for more routine inspections to make sure it is safer for everyone. I think it’s a no brainer”