Grocery stores can fail inspections & still stay open

WEST PALM BEACH, FL (WFLX) - With food prices rising, shoppers want to stretch their buck.

"I'm telling you their prices are good," shopper Carla Novoa said of Monterrey Supermarket in Delray Beach.

Inspectors found live rodents. One jumped out at an inspector we told her. "You're kidding?! Wow!" exclaimed Novoa. "Are they closing the place?"

Unlike restaurants that get closed down for rodents and roaches, grocery stores can stay open -- even if they fail the inspection.

They must stop using or throw away any products near the areas where pests or other hazardous situations were found. "I think that's disgusting I really do," explained shopper Addison Fields.

We reviewed state inspection reports since 2013 for hundreds of grocery stores from Boca Raton to the Treasure Coast.

We found stores that failed inspections multiple times.

Like the President Supermarket in Lake Worth that failed three inspections in two years (August, November and December of 2013).

When we took our hidden cameras inside to see if they cleaned up their act, we found milk two days past due. Inspectors also found expired milk.

The state also looks for signs of pests. "It's just something that happens," explained C&D Produce bookkeeper Alyson Philp.

C&D Produce in Lake Worth also failed three inspections (Twice in December 2013 and once in January 2014).

In December 2013, an inspector found live roaches on a scale in the meat department.

In January 2014, they found rodents who left droppings and chewed packages behind. "My shelves are absolutely perfect," Philp explained.

Philp said she has an exterminator come several times a week, and blames a nearby overgrown field for the pest problem. "Anything beyond this fence is not ours," explained Philp.

We asked about the trash lying on her property in the back where customers don't go. "It's just things get flown out of baskets and stuff. Every night this area gets cleaned,"  explained Philp.

Rodents were also repeatedly at Monterrey Supermarket in Delray Beach. The grocer failed three inspections (Two times in April 2013 and once in June 2014).

The local store and corporate did not have any comment.

According to state reports, rodents were found in the store twice in April of 2013.

It appeared to an inspector those rodents were even nibbling on cookies in the deli.

We showed the report to a customer. An inspector wrote that multiple products were covered with urine and feces from rodents. "What? Oh my God!" exclaimed Jean Belmont. "This is a very popular grocery store."

The store also failed an inspection in June of this year for several issues including a quote "putrid, foul smelling-build-up of meat debris."

"I don't want to buy anything that I know is going to make me sick," explained Belmont.

Inspectors did not find any cause for concern at any Publix store in our area. The grocer passed all its inspections in the past two years.

Shoppers we talked to are not surprised. "Publix has always been good and clean," explained Fields.

Walmart, Winn-Dixie, Target and Sam's Club in our area have failed inspections but not more than once at one location.

State law doesn't spell out how often a grocery store must be inspected.

It depends on risk. So the dirty ones are inspected more often.

The state just started to post a grocer's last inspection online, but if a grocer failed two weeks ago and passed today you wouldn't see that failure.

It's a better system, but hardly like the public data available for restaurants.