Two-thirds of supermarkets fail city inspections

Supermarkets will have to comply with city rules or face fines, as the target goal for supermarket inspections climbs to a soaring 2,000 inspections this year.

Compliance by supermarkets located throughout the city regulated by the Department of Consumer Affairs (DCA) declined from 48 percent to 33 percent since inspections in August 2010.

“We are going to keep going out there, conduct 2,000 inspections this year, and continue to issue fines, to work with the industry to try to improve the situation,” said Kay Sarlin, a DCA spokesperson.

But the supermarket industry has had difficulties with the city regulations.

“We have inspectors coming in all the time and they are not clear in what they want,” said Raymond Hernandez, manager of Champion Food Supermarket in Jackson Heights. “They always looking for money.”

After a yearlong enforcement sweep and the continued non-compliance by supermarkets, about 500 inspections were conducted so far by the DCA in the five boroughs. Inspectors visited supermarkets checking improper product pricing to taxation of non-taxable items and inaccurate scanning. The charged supermarkets could face a total of more than $310,000 in fines.

“They are making things difficult for us, increasing the fees and requirements, and always changing the rules,” said Christopher Sanchez, 24, manager of Compare Foods Supermarket in Woodside.

Since August, the DCA conducted 122 inspections in Queens, which resulted in 79 violations. During those first four months, 35 percent of supermarkets in Queens were compliant with city regulations.

“There should be a regulation by having the same standard in pricing in all the supermarkets,” said Juan Gomez, 43, a consumer who lives in Jackson Heights.

Although a list of the non-compliant supermarkets has not been released, the DCA will continue to increase its citywide inspections of supermarkets in its continued enforcement of consumer protection.

“In this climate of economic recession, I think compliance is very important because it protects the consumer from being defrauded even by a penny, where every penny counts,” said Miguel Terc, a lawyer of the Terc Law Office in Astoria.

To file a complaint about a supermarket, call 3-1-1 or visit the DCA’s web site at www.nyc.gov/consumers.

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