Andrew M. Cuomo, Governor | Richard A. Ball, Commissioner


Inspections take place where food is produced, shipped, processed, or sold to check compliance with food safety and labeling laws. The potential hazard of the food or the process determines how many inspections are done annually.

Approximately 115 Food Inspectors working statewide in the Division of Food Safety and Inspection conduct inspections in approximately 28,000 food establishments which include grocery stores, supermarkets, manufacturing/processing plants, beverage plants, food warehouses, wholesale bakeries, and food salvage dealers.

Food inspectors routinely collect food samples and send them to the State Food Laboratory for analysis. However, they are empowered to seize food or seek a court order closing a facility when a violation found during an inspection warrants immediate public safety action.

At the Grocery Store…

Food Inspectors routinely inspect grocery stores throughout the state to check sanitary conditions, food preparation procedures, and storage conditions, as well as compliance with licensing, pricing, labeling, and point-of-purchase advertising regulations. It is always a practice to collect samples of fresh, in-store packaged and processed food and send them to the State Food Lab for analysis. Inspectors also make investigatory visits, many of which are prompted by consumer complaints.

Regardless of the initial purpose of the inspection, if the inspector’s eyes or nose detects anything out of order during the visit, the inspection will broaden. Any infractions of the law will trigger enforcement action. Food Inspectors are quick to spot insanitary meat grinders, meat or milk cases which are too warm, unsafe soup or salad handling procedures, and soggy "frozen" vegetables. Evidence of rodent or insect activity at the store will bring enforcement, as will inaccurate record-keeping and improper facilities to allow employees to practice good personal hygiene.

When warranted, inspectors can place entire food shipments under seizure until diagnostic testing is complete and the inspector either clears the food for sale, puts some condition on its sale, or orders it held for destruction following a Hearing. "Traceback" investigations to other points in the food distribution system (i.e. producer or processor) may also be initiated. For example, when the New York State Department of Health investigated a Salmonella enteritidis outbreak caused by contaminated raw shelled eggs, Division Inspectors assisted in tracing problem eggs back to producers in other states. These producers are then prohibited from shipping any more eggs into New York State until their flocks have been tested and found to be free of Salmonella enteritidis.

At the Warehouse…

Licensing, sanitation, and storage conditions are the main focus of inspections at the 2,400 warehouses located throughout New York State. Food Inspectors make sure licenses are in force and conduct visual inspections of the physical plant to establish that it is in good condition, clean, dry, and free of animal or insect infestation. They check refrigeration equipment, take air temperature readings, look for evidence of spoilage, and collect food samples for physical, chemical, and microbiological analyses. When violations occur, enforcement action is taken, including food seizures.

There are approximately 2,800 food processing facilities in New York State. Once again, inspectors verify licensing and check for proper sanitary conditions. Since fresh food is undergoing change here, the process and equipment used are under close scrutiny. For example, raw fish is shipped to a smokehouse operation for processing. Salting or brining, heating, and finished product temperature are critical to product safety so inspection of these process operation as critical control points is very thorough. Violations can result in immediate plant closure through summary license suspensions or injunction actions brought in New York State courts.