Food & Dining

Big names are ‘Gross Grocers’: Publix, Walmart, Sedano’s, Family Dollar fail inspection

How to handle food safely to prevent illness

Your kitchen is filled with food safety tools that, when used properly, can keep you and your loved ones healthy. Get tips on how to help prevent food poisoning by proper use of refrigerators, microwaves, cutting boards and more.
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Your kitchen is filled with food safety tools that, when used properly, can keep you and your loved ones healthy. Get tips on how to help prevent food poisoning by proper use of refrigerators, microwaves, cutting boards and more.

This edition of our “Gross Grocers List,” out just in time for Memorial Day Weekend shopping, certainly champions diversity and inclusiveness.

All four counties we check for failed state inspections — Miami-Dade, Broward, Palm Beach and Monroe — are represented. And as stores, it’s an all-star lineup: the big (Publix, Walmart, Sedano’s and Family Dollar), popular bakeries (Vicky and Don Pan), and convenience stores (Circle K), as well as food distributors and storage businesses.

What follows comes from Florida Department of Agriculture inspections. We control neither who gets inspected nor how strictly they get inspected. These are not a complete list of violations on each inspection, just the most standout or unique. We report without passion or prejudice, but with a shopping cart of humor (and some judgment for storing in-use knives and spatulas between equipment.

In alphabetical order:

The B’s Family Mart, 13000 NW Seventh Ave., North Miami — This store is back for a second straight Gross Grocers. And it appears it still hasn’tt found a reliable exterminator.

“Observed dead rodent on floor located between stand up reach in beverage cooler” and “multiple rodent excreta inside a plastic container located on shelf.”

The April 5 Stop-Use Order/Stop-Sale Order remains in effect “for all receiving of foods, retail pre-package foods and all retail shelves.” So, they can’t get new food and still couldn’t put the food on the shelves anyway.

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Caribbean Best Market, 4140 N. State Rd. 7, Lauderdale Lakes — The inspector found “fuzz and discoloration on packages of peppers located in the reach-in cooler.”

“Several flies throughout food establishment.”

Another thing of which there were several: plumbing problems, including a sewage backup in the produce processing area that a plumber handled during the inspection.

“Pooling of water on floor throughout food establishment.”

Circle K, 815 W. Indiantown Rd., Jupiter — No soap or cleaning substance at the backroom handwashing sink.

Want some Coke? The soda nozzles “have slime and debris.”

All the sandwiches in the not-so-hot case were thrown out for not being warm enough. And in the reach-in cooler, an egg salad sandwich, packages of hot dogs and bacon were thrown out.

But all that paled next to “observed live rodent run across into pallets under beer in northwest corner of retail area.” The inspector dropped a Stop Use on that area.

Common Grounds Brew & Roastery, 12 S J St., Lake Worth Beach — “Drinking water not obtained from an approved source of that is constructed, maintained, and operated according to law.”

Crown Wine & Spirits, 1030 NE 15th Ave., Fort Lauderdale — Bad: In the retail cold case, “items up to and including fish dip, smoked salmon, salsa, assorted dips” were too warm for safe eating.

Worse: In the backroom by the warewashing sink, the inspector saw “rodent excreta around drain in back area … back area on north side, observed rodent excreta around wall and boxes down hallway.”

Dion C-Stores, 81644 Overseas Hwy., Islamorada — In the food processing area, on May 15, “rodent droppings observed on handwashing sink, prep sink, mop sink, three-compartment sink and all throughout floor of main kitchen.”

Don Pan, 400 S. Dixie Hwy., Coral Gables — Seems the folks at this Don Pan know how to use the kitchen, but not how to clean the kitchen.

“Nozzle on hose unit to warewash sink with visible grime and mold-like residue around and unclean with mildew like residue around the handles.”

“Dust, food particles, grease and grime accumulation along walls, under equipment and storage shelves.”

“Underside of blade attachment to the floor mixer encrusted in old yellow dough residue.”

“Various food items stored uncovered on shelves inside the walk in cooler.”

Out in the food service area, more visible to customers, “yellow residue observed around rim to ice chute of ice maker.”

Euro Market, 4603 Okeechobee Blvd., West Palm Beach — Workers weren’t washing their hands when putting on or changing gloves to work with food. But they did wash utensils in the handwashing sink, but those are supposed to be sanitized, which is a three-compartment sink’s raison d’etre (wash-rinse-sanitize).

Both the cheese and the cabbage in the upright refrigerator had “mold-like accumulation.”

Cheese and cabbage pastries, cheese, meat and cabbage blintzes, chicken, fish and cabbage prepared foods and some deli meats all got tossed for being kept at unsafe temperatures.

Family Dollar, 821 SW 67th Ave., West Miami — Comment by inspector Jose Lares at the end of an April 10 inspection: “Food establishment has 30 calendar days to make necessary changes so that hot water is available at both restrooms (male and female) hand sinks. Failure to comply will result in administrative action.”

That brings us to the comment by inspector Lares on this May 14 check back: “This check-back inspection conducted to verify compliance of food safety citations observed during previous inspection. Food establishment did not [comply]. The person in charge says the manager refuses to comply with the installation of hot running water in the ladies’ and men’s restrooms.”

“Food establishment has 14 calendar days from present inspection dated 5/14/19 to make necessary changes to install hot running water at the hand sinks in the ladies and men restrooms. Failure to comply may result in administrative action.”

Or, going by what didn’t happen on May 14, it may result in administrative inaction.

An email from a spokesman for Family Dollar parent company Dollar Tree said a work order was submitted May 15 and a technician was there to assess what needed to be done Thursday. The problem should be resolved this week.

Questions still not answered, but asked by the Miami Herald via email: why the work order wasn’t submitted until after the second inspection; whether or not the employee was mistaken in saying the manager “refuses to comply;” or if the employee wasn’t mistaken, will the manager face discipline?

Famous Deli of Boca, 9070 Kimberly Blvd., Ste. 21, Boca Raton — The handwashing sink next to the three-compartment sink had the hot water turned off at the valve.

The inspector saw sheet trays washed, but not sanitized.

Much of the cheese, yogurt, hot dogs, nova, herring, milk in the retail reach-in cooler got tossed for being too warm.

High Grow Trading, 6501 NW 37th Ave., Miami — This is a seafood processing place, one of the businesses in the food sales chain known by few of the consumers who eventually buy the products this business handles.

The place that had a “heavy amount of dust on food products throughout entire warehouse.”

“Rodent droppings on top of boxes of “Bullhead Brand” BBQ sauce, also observed rodent dropping in area where open produce is being handled.”

The inspector dropped Stop Use orders on that produce handling area and a cooler.

Also, somebody needs a litter box. And a cat with a better work ethic.

“Observed a live cat inside of the facility, observed cat feces inside along back and side wall of cooler where dry mushrooms and flour is stored, also in area where open boxes of vegetables are weighed.”

The inspector saw a roof spitting water in several places and a “pallet of oriental style instant noodles where rain water appeared to be leaking onto the pallets.”

La Frontera, 257 NE Eighth St., Homestead — In the retail area, “bag of oatmeal gnawed on and adulterated on dry goods shelving” and “rodent droppings observed on floor of utility section by entrance to walk-in cooler, on floor and shelf of dry goods aisle.”

In the backroom, “rodent droppings observed on floor of unused restroom accessible through back storage room and on floor of walk-in cooler used as storage room.”

Also, rather unsettling was “according to manager, “pickled items” placed under Stop Sale Order during the original inspection performed on 4/30/2019 have been sold out and the container has been discarded without regulatory permission. “Pickled items” and “all open food” was originally placed under Stop-Sale order due to there being evidence of a pest infestation by the three-compartment sink.”

So the Stop Use Order stays for the unused restroom, three-compartment sink, all food processing equipment, utility section and dry goods shelving. And the Stop Sale Order stays in effect for all open food.

Marlins Bakery, 12857 SW 88th St., South Miami-Dade — No hand soap available at the many hand sinks available in food establishment. No paper towels available in the employee unisex restroom.

No sanitizer available to sanitize washed equipment and utensils

Ham croquettes, chicken croquettes, cod croquettes, beef empanadas, chicken empanadas, meat pastries, sausage pastries, and ham and cheese pastries all failed the temperature test.

“Kitchen, found knives stored between wall and prep table.”

701 Marathon, 701 W. Sunrise Blvd., Fort Lauderdale — This was a re-inspection after an April 25 fail. Or, we should say, a re-fail.

“Rat excreta/droppings…on shelves located inside cabinets located at food service area.” In the back room, “rat excreta/droppings on floor between (three-compartment) sink and mop sink and corners located in back storage room.”

With that, you don’t want to see the next violation be “bottled drinks stored directly on floor” in the back storage room.

Publix, 2950 NE Eighth St., Homestead — A Publix store makes an appearances on a second straight inspections list.

“Produce Department … manager not washing hands upon walking into prep area before working with open food.”

In the bakery, an employee in single use gloves was seen “picking up plastic trash debris from floor and immediately continue working with pies and other type of open food on prep table without swapping out or changing single-use gloves.”

“Food residue on blade and other food contact surfaces of band-saw.”

Some raw pork shoulder, raw pork sausage and raw beef got tossed because a reach-in cooler didn’t work well enough.

Roma Food Group, 3636 NW 60th St., Miami — Stop Use and Stop Sale Orders crashed down like spring storm lightning on this dry storage facility. We’ll let the inspection report give the whys.

“Throughout outbound dry storage area, live and dead rodents on glue boards, as well as excessive amount of rodent excreta pellets, too many to count, throughout and in-between storage shelves.

“Also, observed a few live mice running through pallets as food establishment personnel began the cleaning process … observed, several live birds in the facility. Bags of wheat flour (200 bags), corn flour (480 bags), coconut cookies (300 boxes) gnawed, with rodent droppings found on top of bags in between product along the pallet where the food is being stored.

“Specifically located in the receiving area observed two pallets of uncooked raw rice wrapped in plastic and covered with a cardboard, product was found with rodent droppings and bird droppings on top and inside of plastic wrap.”

On Thursday’s focused re-inspection, “unable to release Stop Use as there is still some rodent activity and bird activity. Found approximately 2,000 lbs. of dry goods placed on hold that were examined and segregated by food establishment and found infested with rodent activity, droppings.”

After Roma passed the focused re-inspection Friday, inspector Raymond Collada wrote, “Rough estimate for products on hold was approximately $500,000.”

Sedano’s, 4308 SW Eighth St., Miami — This is the second straight Gross Grocers list with a Sedano’s store.

In the seafood area, “observed black mold-like filth around interior rim to ice chute of ice maker.”

There were a couple of flies sitting on a meat service area countertop and “encrusted old meat residue in between teeth to the table top grinder and on the blade of meat slicer.”

Sunflex, 12335 SW 112th St., South Miami-Dade — No gas station sushi, but gas station empanada tomato dipping sauce and gas station hot dogs had been open more than a week.

They didn’t have any sanitizer for ware washing and the ware washing sink as well as all food-related equipment had a Stop Use Order on it anyway. There wasn’t a handwashing sink, either, but the water heater was turned off during the inspection anyway.

Tornado chicken tacos, cartons of eggs, Colombian white cheese, yogurt, milk, muenster cheese and bologna got tossed. Bad temperature.

Vicky Bakery, 1973 NE 163rd St., North Miami Beach — “Several insect traps full of dead insects, not changed as often as needed.”

The ice machine in the food service area had “soil and rust built up.”

In the back room, the inspector saw “a deli slicer with old soil and food residue on a blade on top of a prep table, also observed an industrial can opener with old soil and food residue attached to the prep table next to the handwash sink.”

A Memorial Day Thomas Jefferson Descendants cookout’s worth of food got tossed for not being kept at safe temperatures: four deli bulk turkey breasts, 26 deli bulk hams, 105 party trays of pasta spread mini sandwiches, 30 trays of mini ham and cheese party trays and 17 containers of pasta spread.

Walmart, 33501 S. Dixie Hwy., Florida City — In the Bakery Department, the mechanical warewashing machine didn’t get hot enough for sanitizing utensils.

Out where the groceries get sold, yogurt, butter, deli ham, deli turkey and mozzarella cheese got tossed for not being cool enough. In the deli, a package of beef pastrami had been open 13 days.

“Cup of cooked shrimp not tossed after more than six hours on display.”

The person sampling milk near the deli area wore single-use gloves, but worked with food, picked up the cell phone, then worked with food again. That’s more than one use and the inspector said something about it.

A deli employee didn’t wash hands before putting on gloves to deal with open food.

Wynn’s at Ocean Reef, 26 Dockside Ln., Key Largo — Sliced package of deli ham not discarded after held cold for more than seven days.

“Deli slicers, knives, and prep tables not washed, rinsed and sanitized at least every four hours when in use.”

Speaking of sanitized, “ammonia-based sanitizer concentration sink set up at less than 100 parts per million; employees not sanitizing utensils after cleaning them.”

Cut melons, cantaloupes and watermelons couldn’t be cooled enough after four hours, probably because they were in either the main display case cooler, the upright wall reach-in cooler or the bakery cooler. None of them were working.

Sheran Watkins of the Mississippi State University Extension Service gives seniors some advice on making wise food choices.

Since 1989, David J. Neal’s domain at the Miami Herald has expanded to include writing about Panthers (NHL and FIU), Dolphins, old school animation, food safety, fraud, naughty lawyers, bad doctors and all manner of breaking news. He drinks coladas whole. He does not work Indianapolis 500 Race Day.
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