Safety violations at your favorite grocery store?

Posted at 8:01 PM, Mar 02, 2017
and last updated 2017-03-03 10:04:13-05

LEE COUNTY, Fla. -- Food shopping is no day at the beach and it's expensive.  Fox 4 is breaking new ground on food safety violations at your favorite grocery store, and it involves a state commissioner.

You shouldn't be left hungry for answers when it comes to your family's safety.  Florida Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam, the top-food-cop in Florida, is now under fire for accepting tens of thousands of dollars in campaign donations from Publix supermarkets, its employees, and their families.

Now we're questioning whether that relationship is affecting the inspection reports for Publix stores in Southwest Florida and in other parts of the state.

"Of course not.  Not anymore than anyone else's contributions influence. You have to follow the law and do what's right by the people," says Putnam.

Some of his critics are ranting over his Fresh From Florida state food inspectors only giving a pass or fail grade to all supermarkets, like one outside of Tampa.  "No matter what state inspectors discover? No warnings to the public when they uncover potentially dangerous violations."

One food shopper said "I don't want to see rats running around."

Fox 4 searched Florida's public records database. We found two Publix stores -- one in Fort Myers, the other in Cape Coral -- that passed inspection all right, but racked up a number of what some shoppers believe are eyebrow-raising issues.

The Publix on Summerlin Road in Fort Myers was cited November 7th for potentially hazardous food temperatures, food exposed during cleaning periods, and intake exhaust ducts not cleaned, dirty filters, creating public health hazards outside.

On Del Prado Boulevard in Cape Coral, the Publix there was inspected last September 13th.  It passed inspection but was given five citations for potentially dangerous cold food temperatures, and various house cleaning issues.
Adam Putnam is promising to more stringent inspections, and to forge better public awareness of what his inspections find.

Fox 4 will check him on this promise.

The Publix corporate office emailed this response to our inquiry about the issues at the Fort Myers and Cape Coral stores:

"We recognize the trust and confidence our customers place in us, and we would never knowingly disappoint them.   We strive to exceed their expectations. The violations referenced in your story were all corrected during the time of inspection. In addition, our support teams provided training, coaching, counseling and addressed each concern appropriately."