The answer is yes.
I talked this morning with Elaine Lidholm, a spokeswoman with the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services. That’s the department that regulates any type of food store (you’ll remember they came into play when I reported on the closing of Seafood Charlie’s).
Lidholm told me that VDACS performs two type of inspections at every grocery store in the state. The first is a regular, surprise inspection that happens about every 15 months. The other is an inspection based on a complaint from a consumer.
During the routine inspections, food inspectors check every department and make sure that employees are using proper sanitation techniques and food is stored at the correct temperatures. They also check Grade A dairy products and infant formula to make sure they haven’t expired. (Those are the only food items that are required to have an expiration date, Lidholm said). If the inspector happens to see a food item other than dairy or formula that is expired they will notify the store manager, Lidholm said.
The inspector has the authority to pull expired items from the shelves, and if they see something such as rotten meat, they have the authority to oversee the destruction of the meat as a way to ensure it isn’t sold.
A different inspector also checks each store’s scales, scanners and the weekly ads to make sure the store is selling products at the advertised price.
Lidholm didn’t know off-hand the range of citations a store could receive, but did say that the inspectors write a report for each visit. Those reports aren’t available online like the health department’s reports of restaurant inspections, but consumers can send a Freedom of Information Act request to VDACS to obtain reports.
Thanks for the great question, Steve.