Feeding the need for information

Assembly speaker wants food violations posted online


State Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver is proposing legislation that would require New York’s Department of Agriculture and Markets to post all food safety violations online.

Silver said that the measure would increase transparency and access to information that is currently available only on posted violation notices at business or by combing through state records.

“Consumers would be able to go online and look up safety violations themselves,” Silver said. “Those who choose to keep kosher will also be able to find information more easily about the labeling of their food. This would be an invaluable resource for all consumers, as it allows them to make better-informed choices about what foods to buy.”

Anita Federman noted the problems of kosher food businesses being inspected in an Aug. 1-7 letter to the Herald, “Seeking answers from the Five Towns Vaad Hakashrus.”

Unless customers researched department records or went to a business that was cited they would not be aware of failed inspections.

“Under the current laws, information about violations is available upon request,” Silver said. “Certain violations require posting of failed inspections notices on the premises. Posting the inspection results online would provide easier access to violation information, particularly when it involves an establishment not often frequented by consumers.”

The online postings would specify the violation, the date a business was inspected, its name and address, the brand name of the items produced or sold at that location and the penalty imposed by the department. The State Legislature passed a similar law earlier this year, requiring the Department of Health to place inspection results of food service establishments online.

Federman, a consumer of kosher products, said she thinks the measure would increase awareness of food violations. “Because when the Herald printed my letter, there were many people who read it and were unaware there was a problem with Zomick’s, so obviously it will have an impact,” said Federman, who has lived in Cedarhurst since the 1950s.

The Inwood-based Zomick's  retains its kosher status, as certified by the Vaad Hakashrus of both the Five Towns and Far Rockaway, and OK Kosher Certification in Brooklyn. The Herald took a tour of the bakery’s Inwood plant recently, and saw workers wearing hairnets and gloves. Bearded men wore nets over their facial hair. The touring reporters also wore hairnets.

After failing an inspection in October 2012, Zomick’s adopted an aggressive program to enhance cleanliness and safety, according to Kaff, and earlier this year the bakery began working with Westchester-based Arnie Flakowitz Associates, a food safety consultant. “I know we are selling safe products,” Kaff said.

Silver said he is confident that the State Senate will also see the benefit of his proposed law. Tom Locascio, an aide to Sen. Dean Skelos (R-Rockville Centre), the Senate majority leader, said that Skelos thinks the issue is important enough to review. “Senator Skelos shares the obvious concerns on this matter,” Locascio said, “and will work to determine the appropriate legislative action when the Senate reconvenes in January.”

Have an opinion about this topic? Send your letter to the editor to jbessen@liherald.com.