The Key Food on Washington Avenue has not been known for its cleanliness. In fact, since 2000, the supermarket has failed state inspections 18 times, according to state records.
But things have been improving over the past few years. It hasn't been cited for rodents since 2009 or for flies since 2008. And it passed its May 2012 inspection.
Three months ago the store hired a new grocery department manager, who has vowed to keep the improvements going.
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"We're working hard," said Freddy Mulero, who came to Key Food from an East New York C-Town where he was the general manager.
Key Food was one of 24 businesses we analyzed in Prospect Heights Patch as part of a statewide effort to map grocery store inspection results. See the full interactive map above.
But even if the store continues to pass its inspections, it will likely be a while before the Key Food's reputation changes given its long history of citations.
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Between 2000 and 2009, the violations were varied and many, according to inspection reports from the state's Department of Agriculture and Markets.
Flies "landing on the grinder meat tray" and other "food contact surfaces" was a problem in July of 2003 and in July and September of 2008. Rat droppings were cited once in 2000 and twice in 2004. And mouse droppings were found every year but two between 2000 and 2009.
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An inspector also found an "ill" and "sneezing" unauthorized person making coffee in deli service area in 2003.
But the November 2004 inspection has the highest gross-out factor, with an inspector writing that "20-50 live cockroaches are present on floor, in cabinets and wall crevices, on boxes of Kellogg's Breakfast Cereal in upper storage and produce preparation area … (and) a live cockroach is present on deli area wooden cutting board."
Since 2009 the inspections have been improving. Key Food passed its inspections in 2010, and in 2011 there was just one critical violation: for a cutting board with "extensive deep knife scores containing imbedded/dark matter, across food contact surfaces."
In February of 2012 the cutting board issue was repeated, and the store was also citied for a "buildup of old dry meat on food contact surfaces" of the meat grinder.
But in the May 25, 2012 state inspection — the most recent that Patch has access to — the store passed, although it had 11 less serious violations including a lack of proper sanitizer testing devices, improperly packed Shitake mushrooms, smoked salmon stored at the wrong temperature and a spatula in the meat processing department "wedged between a wall and a knife, (a) condition which threatens contamination," an inspector reported.
"There's still cleaning to do, but overall it's pretty good," Mulero said.