Dirty Dining: Different agencies inspect grocery stores and restaurants, using two grading systems

If you're familiar with my Dirty Dining segments, you're probably familiar with the type of violations that state inspectors document within the Division of Hotels and Restaurants with critical or non-critical violations described in each report. However, as of January 1, 2013, the state implemented the new 2009 Food Code from the 2001 version, saying it would make the inspection process easier to understand.

The new system includes a three-tiered safety and sanitation system of high priority, intermediate and basic violations. This replaced the critical and non-critical violation system and all reports are posted online at: https://www.myfloridalicense.com/wl11.asp

But, you won't find your favorite grocery store in this data base. That's because supermarkets, bakeries, and other businesses where consumable food is sold is inspected by the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services Division of Food Safety, also known as DOACS. That Department has over 120 inspectors across the state that follow FDA standards.

They grade each facility with either a Good, Fair or Poor score. Inspectors are looking at the overall sanitation of the business, approved water and septic sources, evidence of insect or other rodent infestation, and essentially, any risks within the business that is likely to result in a foodborne illness.

State inspectors with DBPR will often shut down a restaurant for roach or rodent activity or severe food temperature violations.  And while DOACS has that same ability, it rarely closes a facility because it generally requires a long, protracted legal battle. The Department of Agriculture says most firms are eager to comply with corrections, as opposed to being shut down completely. 

Still, the goal of their inspectors is for businesses to comply with state and federally approved food safety standards to ensure good products are available to consumers. 

The Department of Ag's inspections are based on a risk assessment model which begins with three inspections per year.  If a business has a two year history of good inspections, the number of inspections may be reduced to two per year. However, if the business fails or receives a poor inspection, the frequency can increase to four or more times per year.  And if a business has not corrected the cited deficiencies, a fine may also be issued for repeat violations. 

DOACS may also issue stop sale orders on products or stop use orders on equipment.  'Stop Sale Orders' require the business to destroy products and to not sell the product to consumers. 'Stop Use Orders' generally mean the piece of equipment may not be used until it is re-inspected by the department.   

DOACS does not have a database of inspections online, but they tell ABC Action News they're hoping to make the reports available to the public in the near future.

Don't miss our special Dirty Dining I-Team investigation on all the major grocery stores in the Bay Area. See how your favorite grocery store scored on Tuesday, February 26 on ABC Action News at 11 p.m.

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