An analysis of state records shows a chronic history of failed health inspections at the Carroll Gardens Met Foods supermarket on 197 Smith Street for issues related to vermin, defiled food and meat-encrusted food processing equipment.
According to data supplied by the state's Department of Agriculture and Markets, the supermarket has failed 16 times since August 2001 for these critical violations considered health risks by the state.
Twice inspectors had to destroy defiled food deemed unfit for sale. On April 27, 2004, workers found 20 pounds of rice that was riddled with mouse feces and gnaw marks. At that same inspection, workers also flagged the store after they found up to 40 mouse droppings on retail shelves.
Then, on Sept. 24, 2004, workers once more found rodent-defiled food, this time UTZ brand snacks and bags of white flour, as well as up to 40 rodent droppings on shelves.
Met Foods was one of 117 businesses we analyzed on Carroll Gardens Patch as part of a statewide effort to map grocery store inspection results. See the full interactive map above.
While Met Foods seizures go back to 2004, the market's troubles with inspections has continued. In its last visit from inspectors on Jan. 25, 2013, the state failed Met Foods for having dried sewage around a drain vent near the food and vegetable prep area. Inspectors also found dried, old meat residues that were caked on meat saws. In total, Met Foods was slapped with five critical violations in that visit.
A floor manager declined to comment on the violations, deferring to the store manager who was not on site. Repeat attempts to speak to that manager in person and by phone yielded no response as of press time. Meanwhile, calls to Met Foods owner White Rose, which also owns the White Rose food brand, were not returned.
One block over at Stinky Bklyn, employee Ben Sword said he was not shocked to learn that Met Food had so many past violations.
"It's a gigantic store," he said. "I would almost expect there to be something wrong. That said, I don't shop there regularly. It's the kind of place where I would pick up an apple. But if I want a steak, I go to Los Paisanos."
Neither Stinky Bklyn nor Los Paisanos received any critical health violations on their last inspections, according to public records.
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But not everyone within walking distance of Smith Street can afford the prices at those shops, or at the swanky Union Market on Court Street.
"Met Foods is the only affordable grocery in this neighborhood for those living a few blocks away in public housing," stated one 20-year Boerum Hill resident who did not want his name printed. "This supermarket can't and should not be shut down for that reason. And, really, the state or the community should do something to help improve it for those that shop there."
Yet the market's issues continue. On March 23, 2012, Met Foods failed due to dirty meat processing equipment. In fact, the supermarket has failed inspections six times due to unsanitary equipment in its meat cutting room.
The market has also had its share of rodent issues. The grocery store was cited for critical violations related to rodent feces eight times when workers found droppings either on retail shelves or in the basement storage area.
At the same time, Met Foods was flagged on three occasions when workers found live cockroaches scurrying over storage areas and work surfaces.
FAILED INSPECTIONS: 8/23/2001 - 9/6/2001 - 3/17/2003 - 6/4/2003 - 8/6/2003 - 11/17/2003 - 4/27/2004 - 9/24/2004 - 11/16/2004 - 5/25/2006 - 7/26/2006 - 5/11/2007 - 7/18/2011 - 10/24/2011 - 3/23/2102 - 1/25/2013
While the prevalence of vermin in New York City is by no means a surprise – inspectors discovered rodent-defiled food in 162 inspections in Brooklyn in 2012 – the concern over rats, and the diseases they carry, have lawmakers looking for stricter penalties.
State Sen. Jeff Klein, D-Bronx/Westchester, has introduced a bill in Albany that aims to set up a three-strikes system to close repeat offenders.
“Since 2000, the department has hired additional inspectors and is inspecting supermarkets more frequently,” the bill reads. “But far too many stores are still being allowed to fail four or more inspections before being closed down.”
RELATED: Pols Push to Shutter Vermin-Infested Food Marts