In the state of New York, inspectors visit every single grocery store across the state at least once a year, noting down what they call "critical deficiencies." That could be everything from evidence of mice and rats to poultry grinders encrusted with old food. What they find might make you look at your own grocery store in an entirely new (and not flattering) light.
The information is all public of course, but most people don't have the time and energy sort through it. Fortunately The New York World recently put together an interactive map of results from New York City grocery store inspections to show which ones are the cleanest, and which ones are the dirtiest.
While New York City doesn't necessarily represent every city across the nation, it's likely that even your local grocery store experiences some of these problems. Most commonly found were animal droppings, along with dead mouse carcasses here and there. Then there are other gross notables: moldy meatballs, cornmeal infested with live and dead beetles, gnawed and empty packages of Jello, a baseball bat used to grind meat... the list goes on.
Then there is the less disgusting, but potentially problem of food storage: in more than 260 cases, grocery store foods were not stored at the right temperature, which can lead to food-borne illnesses.
So who was the cleanest? As it turns out Trader Joe's is the cleanest grocery store in New York, with only one "deficiency" reported since 2008.
From the Organic Authority Files
When it comes to your grocery store, inspections are handled by local and county health departments. You can find state inspection reports online to get a first hand look at grocery store cleanliness in your state.
I'll bet growing your own vegetables sounds just a little more tempting, now doesn't it?
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Image: Ben Schumin