By Dan Hust
MONTICELLO The Monticello Walmart has failed four consecutive food safety inspections, putting it at risk of closure, according to the state.
“It is serious,” confirmed NYS Dept. of Agriculture and Markets spokesperson Jessica Ziehm yesterday.
“We’re scheduling a hearing to consider revoking their food processing permit,” she explained.
That permit allows Walmart to handle raw food in the produce, deli, bakery and meat departments, Ziehm said.
As of yesterday, the hearing had yet to be set, but she affirmed that it will be scheduled “as soon as possible.”
“We are required to provide due process,” Ziehm noted.
If the Monticello Walmart’s license is revoked and it fails a subsequent inspection, Ziehm said the state may seek an injunction to close down the store. She wasn’t sure, however, if that would mean the closure of the whole Walmart or just the grocery side.
Ziehm could not discuss the details of the case but did provide inspection reports dating back to September of last year.
The most recent was conducted on Tuesday, May 22, when state officials met with Walmart management to discuss compliance.
According to that sanitary inspection report, 10 “critical deficiencies” were noted, which the state warned could result in civil penalties or legal action: a cold cut platter being prepared without washing the lettuce used as garnish, and nine observations of mouse activity.
The activity included 50-80 mouse droppings in checkout and food aisles, and gnaw marks on a health bar and blueberry package.
“General deficiencies” considered by the state to be less “critical” but still requiring immediate correction numbered nine and included a fly-catcher with 15-18 dead flies in it, located between the fryer and slicer table.
Previous inspections between September 20, 2011 and April 25, 2012 noted thousands of mouse droppings in a variety of food areas, from beer and snack displays to retail bagged cereal and candy.
Evidence of rodent activity also appeared in the bread, pharmacy and deli areas during those inspections, and in January, a live bird was found around the deli and produce section, with bird droppings noted on a bread display and grape and meat display cases. A pizza with apparent bird droppings on its box was discarded.
On January 3, nearly 36 pounds of peanuts, trail mix, coconut, popcorn, chips and snacks were destroyed after mouse droppings and gnaw marks were found on them.
Nine pounds of unspecified food were similarly destroyed on April 25 for the same reason.
That report also indicated two dead mice were discovered in traps set in the produce and snack aisles, along with another one in the reclaim/record area (non-food).
Labeled a “general deficiency,” the state last September noted the storeroom “is maintained in a manner which inhibits proper cleaning and inspection, a likely rodent, insect or vermin harborage.”
National Walmart spokeswoman Kayla Whaling told the Democrat yesterday that the store has taken and is taking action. It’s hired a pest control provider and has begun sealing gaps in doors and walls.
“We take this matter very seriously,” Whaling affirmed. “We’re committed to offering safe, quality food to our customers.”
In the meantime, she confirmed the entire store remains open for business.
“Obviously, we are concerned about this and do apologize for any inconvenience this may have caused,” she said.
See the state-issued report, here