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Ask The Times: Ag department inspects food sold at grocery stores
The cafe at Sam’s Club is inspected by the Department of Agriculture because the majority of the square footage at its business is for food sales.

If you’ve been wondering about something in your community, Ask The Times is your place to get answers. The following question was submitted by a reader and answered through the efforts of our news staff.

Who inspects the food served at grocery stores?

First, you’ll need to know a couple of terms.

• Food sales establishment: grocery stores, convenience stores, bakeries, seafood operations, salvage food operations, mobile meat trucks and rolling stores

• Food service establishment: restaurants and caterers.

The Georgia Department of Agriculture inspects food sales.

The Georgia Department of Public Health inspects food service. The Times publishes these inspections each Sunday.

When a business sells food under both designations, whichever portion has larger square footage determines who inspects the food. For instance, the cafe at Sam’s Club and deli at Kroger are inspected by the Department of Agriculture because the majority of the square footage at their businesses is for food sales.

In its inspections, the agriculture department enforces state laws, rules and regulations through “random and unannounced” inspections, the agency said in a statement to The Times.

“The inspectors conduct routine inspections in addition to obtaining product samples for lab analysis, investigating consumer complaints, checking for recalled products and supervising the destruction of products that have been deemed unwholesome,” the department said.

The most current inspection report must be posted near the point of sale for food, and it must be capable of being read from a foot away.

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