Politics from the Palouse to Puget Sound

Monday, January 23, 2006

Wal-Mart Grocery Stores

This is an article by Lea Thompson who is the Chief Consumer Correspondent for NBC News. This is a list of supermarket chains and their rankings for a survey conducted by Dateline.

The list

From the supermarket chain that kept things cleanest, to the one with the poorest performance in our survey, here’s Dateline’s "Supermarkets Sweep." This is a list where nobody wants to be number one. (From the fewest violations to the most):

10) Food Lion. The grocery chain that did best in our survey? Food Lion. For every 10 inspections, it averaged 8 critical violations: that’s less than one violation per inspection.

9) Wal-Mart and Save-a-Lot. Not far behind we had two chains tied for ninth place? Wal-Mart and Save-a-lot. Over 10 inspections both averaged 9 critical violations.

Save-a-Lot’s biggest problem, according to the inspection reports was selling food with expired labels or damaged packaging. While the chain did well in our survey, in one report from one Save-a-Lot in Eatonton, Georgia, a health inspector found 60 expired products for sale. Two months later, that number had doubled to 129.

As for the world’s largest retailer? Wal-Mart’s biggest problem in its grocery sections seemed to be keeping food at the right temperature. One of its stores had a real strange problem: birds, live ones. In Madison, Indiana, health inspectors told Wal-Mart it had to get rid of the birds flying around the store.

7) Costco and Sam's Club. Tied for seventh place, Costco and Sam’s Club. Both averaged 12 critical violations — that means a little more than one violation for each inspection.

According to health reports, Sam’s Club didn’t provide adequate hand washing facilities for its employees. Some sinks were broken. Others had no soap.

As for Costco, one of its Brooklyn stores was cited in 2004 for a rodent problem. We visited the store three times in the past year and every time found mouse traps. But the most common violation, one out of every five found by health inspectors involved temperature. On 56 occasions, in many different stores an inspector found food on sale that was stored in what’s known as the danger zone.

Nelken: The danger zone is the range of temperature from 41 to 135. And once you get in the middle of that, that’s where bacteria rages and reproduce.

5) Winn-Dixie. Next, as we go from fewest violations to the most, at number five is Winn-Dixie. For every 10 inspections, the chain had 14 critical violations and the stores received most of their citations for storing toxic chemicals such as cleaning supplies near food.

4) Kroger. With even more problems, at number four, Kroger— they an average 17 critical violations.

When Dateline paid the chain a visit in Sugarland, Texas we found a number of expired products: cheese and milk. But the problem health inspectors noted most often at Kroger was one we couldn’t see. On 91 different occasions, inspectors cited Kroger stores for having improper food equipment, such as dirty meat slicers.

Nelken: Every time we slice the food we’re passing that bacteria on to that slice of cheese or meat.

The next three chains had more problems than the rest of the pack in 2004. In fact, for every 10 inspections, each of them averaged more than 20 critical violations, that’s an average of more than two critical violations for each and every inspectors visit.

3) Publix, on average, had 22 critical violations. Dateline visited two stores in Florida and found flies crawling over the fruits and vegetables. But according to inspectors, the most frequent problem for the chain was the way it stored toxic chemicals.

2) Albertsons. For every 10 inspections, 24 critical violations. And a lot were for improperly stored toxic chemicals.

1) Safeway. Finally, in the spot no store wants to be number one in Dateline’s “Supermarket Sweep?” Safeway.

For every 10 inspections, Safeway stores received 25 critical violations— on average, two and a half critical violations for each inspection.

The biggest problem, according to inspectors? Temperature violations. For instance, “Dateline” recently found this Safeway in D.C. selling fried chicken that wasn’t hot enough to keep bacteria from growing. And over two visits, “Dateline” also found dirty floors, broken packages of meat, and the store itself in a state of disrepair with wires hanging from the ceiling of the produce section.

We should mention that 25 percent of the stores in our survey had no critical violations at all in 2004.
I thought this was very interesting in light of how many PARDners are concerned with what will happen to Safeway if a Super Wal-Mart opens in Pullman. Sounds like a competition for cleanliness to me.

1 comment:

Tom Forbes said...

Clean up on Aisle 3!!!

Costco doesn't surprise me. The one in Clarkston has birds flying around inside as well.