Department of Agriculture and Markets

 

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NYS Comptroller

THOMAS P. DiNAPOLI

Taxpayers' Guide to State and Local Audits

Department of Agriculture and Markets
Food Safety Monitoring


Issued: January 30, 2014
Link to full audit report 2013-S-27
Link to 90-day response

Purpose
To determine whether the Department of Agriculture and Markets (Department) adequately monitors the processing, distribution and sale of food products in New York State. The audit covers the period April 1, 2011 to September 18, 2013.

Background
The Department's Division of Food Safety and Inspection (Division) is responsible for enforcing State laws and Department regulations related to food safety. The Division's objective is to ensure a safe and properly labeled food supply - from the producer to the retailer to the consumer. Major activities include conducting unannounced sanitary inspections of both current and new food production/preparation establishments, obtaining and analyzing food samples in support of its food safety/recall program, and investigating consumer complaints. As of June 4, 2013, the Division was responsible for inspecting 31,401 establishments. From April 1, 2011 through June 4, 2013, it received 5,724 consumer complaints for investigation, and inspectors obtained 3,894 food samples for testing to identify potential violations of food safety.

Key Findings

  • The Division has been unable the meet the demands of its inspection frequency schedule. As of June 4, 2013, inspections were past due for almost 5,000 establishments. Another 439 new establishments did not yet have a required initial inspection done prior to preparing food.
  • Our random sample of 45 of these new establishments found, on average, that license applications had been on file for almost six months. Our visits found 19 (42 percent) were already preparing food without the required inspection.
  • The Division's staff of 82 inspectors is 27 to 37 percent below the level recommended by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. We identified several opportunities to more effectively deploy existing resources that could significantly address existing backlogs.Most consumer complaints are investigated timely and the Department's food sampling program is a nationally recognized leader in the field. However, all programs could benefit from performance measurement systems that provide managers and supervisors with access to relevant data and provide appropriate training in data analysis to program management.

Key Recommendations

  • Establish performance measures for food inspection activities, including Department-wide policy governing such things as work scheduling and time allowances for local travel.
  • Establish procedures to further prioritize and ensure timely completion of inspections of new establishments.
  • Increase efforts to provide coordinated real-time access to data among divisions and obtain training on how to use that data to perform necessary analytics to monitor performance, including activities such as inspections and complaint response.

Other Related Audits/Reports of Interest

Department of Agriculture and Markets: Uncollected Penalties (2012-S-69)
Department of Agriculture and Markets: Food Safety Program (1998-S-15)


State Government Accountability Contact Information:
Audit Director: John Buyce
Phone: (518) 474-3271; Email: StateGovernmentAccountability@osc.state.ny.us
Address: Office of the State Comptroller; Division of State Government Accountability; 110 State Street, 11th Floor; Albany, NY 12236