How Can I Protect The Public From Potentially Spoiled Cheesecakes?

Somewhere in New York City, there is a rebellious grocery store that doesn’t follow the rules. Except the rules this store ignores don’t make it hip and interesting. They might make people sick. Every time Angela goes to the store, she notices a shelf of baked goods–cheesecakes and pies–that are supposed to be refrigerated, but aren’t. Store employees don’t seem to care, and the city health department has more important things to worry about. It’s only Angela left, standing up for perishable food and for justice, and she doesn’t know what to do next.

She writes:

Hi – the attached photo is from my local [redacted] grocery store, where they are storing/selling from the shelves items that are supposed to be refrigerated. From left to right those are two different types of cheesecakes, some type of banana creme pie, and some type of chocolate creme pie. All say on their labels to “keep refrigerated,” and you would find these items in the refrigerated section of any other grocery store, seeing as how they’re cheesecake and creme pies!


Yet the [redacted] sells them from the shelves – you can see by the price tags on the shelf that this is not a mistake.

This has been going on for months now – I have tried everything from explaining to the people who work at the store, up through I have even tried emailing the New York City Health Department. And still these “keep refrigerated” items are being stored on the shelves.

I obviously am not buying these cheesecakes and creme pies, but… is there anything else that you could suggest I try and do in order to get this store to actually refrigerate the damn “keep refrigerated” items?

Two additional venues to try are the chain’s corporate overlords (maybe?) and the companies that make and distribute the desserts. If a customer gets sick, they’ll blame the baker first, not the store.


Edit Your Comment

  1. Bagels says:

    nothing like a nice warm cream pie…..

  2. Emerson says:

    Cheesecake eating contest???

  3. kabamm says:

    It’s C-Town, whaddya expect? That place is a pit – the whole chain.

  4. Fubish says: I don't know anything about it, but it seems to me... says:

    What was the reply from the Health Dept? When I lived in NYC they were pretty quick on stuff like this. Also, at that time, C-Town was a pretty dumpy place to shop and we would never go there. Sounds like they haven’t changed.

  5. winstonthorne says:

    I’m thinking these may have somehow been shelf stabilized with chemical preservatives.

    How does the creme on the pies not go flat? (Even oil-based, non dairy cremes will usually wilt a bit at room temperature).

    • baquwards says:

      gums and gelatin type ingredients. I’ve worked with some of these products that actually gets MORE stiff as it warms up. Nothing like “food” created in a lab!

    • Difdi says:

      If they were shelf-stable and didn’t require refrigeration, then the manufacturer’s label would NOT mandate refrigeration!

    • djshinyo says:

      Exactly….I’m sure that’s a finely made 5.99 “creme pies”.

  6. Billl says:

    So no traction with the health department, but if you actually get on their radar watch out!!!! Typical government. The store people must be fools too.

  7. newsbunny says:

    You’ve got the picture. Now, send it to one of the TV stations. We love this shit.


    New York reporter Newsbunny.

    Unfortunately, I’m Network, so I deal with national news. And I’m radio, so this won’t translate with gross pictures.
    Try something like the CW, which is a ltitle smaller than the network affiliated stations like 2,4,and 7.

  8. PhiTauBill says:

    Time to get 7 on your side for an undercover investigation.

  9. crispyduck13 says:

    Absolutely agree with newsbunny: call up one of the local news stations, they will be ALL OVER this.

    And Angela – thanks for being a decent person.

  10. foodfeed says:

    Have you tried one and gotten sick? Maybe they have enough preservatives that the “keep refrigerated” is like stamping it with “new recipe” or some other fancy words. Or not.

    • crispyduck13 says:

      When you put “keep refrigerated” on a product containing dairy, it’s not just a passing suggestion.

      • fortymegafonzies says:

        Sugar is very effective preservative — works the same way salt does. I’ve made and eaten cakes with cream cheese frosting that I’ve left at room temp until they were nearly too stale to eat …probably around 5 days.

        • George4478 says:

          So when you buy food that has both sugar and a baker/manufacturer’s label to ‘keep refrigerated’, you’d feel comfortable ignoring the manufacturer and leave it on your counter?

          Personally, I assume the label is there for a reason.

          • OutPastPluto says:

            It’s America. If there’s a label then someone sued and won.

            3rd degree burns might even involved.

          • Firethorn says:

            By default I would as well. However, I’ve traveled the world a bit, and like any country, we have our own individual quirks.

            Over in Europe, for example, eggs and milk are typically unrefridgerated. Now, while the milk is deliberately packaged in a fashion to make it shelf stable(ultra-pastorized, for one), the fact is that properly handled eggs will last almost as long unrefridgerated as they will cooled. In addition, all the eggeries over there vaccinate their hens for salmonella, so the bacterial danger is actually less.

            Cheeses were historically a method for preserving milk products before the age of refridgeration; modern tendencies to keep them in the fridge is more due to lazyness – you have to handle the cheese right to keep it safe once you’ve broken the wax seal(if your modern cheese even came with said seal). This typically involves eating all the cheese before it can spoil, and today’s smaller families don’t eat that much in that short of a time.

            • catastrophegirl chooses not to fly says:

              cheese tastes better at room temperature in my opinion
              but i’ve had shelf stable european milk and there’s a difference in taste and texture that really put me off

        • crispyduck13 says:

          Retail baking/storage does not follow the same rules as personal baking/storage. As someone who is looking into getting their kitchen PADA inspected for a retail home bakery I can tell you that there are very specific requirements by the state for storing products intended for sale that are “Potentially Hazardous Foods.” Cheesecakes and cream pies fall under that umbrella term.

          Can’t imagine the requirements would differ so drastically from PA to NY.

        • codymc says:

          it actually works the opposite way salt does — salt dehydrates the little critters, sugar makes them take in water till they explode.

      • Such an Interesting Monster says:

        Well, it kinda is a passing suggestion. Similar to “dry clean only” on clothing labels.

        Dairy products don’t have to be refrigerated. They will last longer if refrigerated, but it’s not like they instantly spoil if they’re not.

        • Jane_Gage says:

          I’ve found this to be true. I used to leave my butter out all the time like Europeans. Also was going to make the point about the sugar too.

          • allen says:

            i would think that you weren’t actually leaving out dairy butter, but partially hydrogenated vegetable oil concoctions…

            • Mrs. w/1 child says:

              You can leave out 100% real butter as long as it is covered (to prevent stuff falling into it) and not around something with strong odors (because it will absorb odors).

              I grew up in a house where a stick of butter was always in the butter dish on the table and I always leave a stick out on our table in the butter dish.

    • Hi_Hello says:

      that’s what I’m thinking.. too much crap in it, the ‘keep refrigerated’ label is just to fool people to thinking that it’s real food and will expired if not refrigerated.

    • Such an Interesting Monster says:

      Exactly. No one is doing anything about it cause it’s a non-issue. The “keep refrigerated” on the label is for the consumer, and AFTER it’s been opened. And even then it’s not necessary, depending upon how quickly it will be eaten.

      I really don’t understand all this paranoia. How did the human race survive before the advent of the ice box?

      • MaxH42 thinks RecordStoreToughGuy got a raw deal says:

        Many items actually say “Refrigerate after opening”. However, these do not, which leads me to believe that the manufacturer may have intended for these items to stay refrigerated.

      • RayanneGraff says:

        Do you seriously not understand why it’s necessary to refrigerate perishable foods? Food was dangerous before refrigeration was invented, people got sick a lot more often & there were certain things that could not be eaten at all due to the risk(in fact this is why certain religions forbid things like pork).

        Dairy products, like cheesecakes & cream pies, MUST be refrigerated for the entirety of their existence or they will spoil whether they are opened or not. I’d hate to smell your house if you’ve got a nice warm cheesecake just sitting out on your counter, festering.

        • Such an Interesting Monster says:

          I understand full well how it works. Which is why I’m saying it’s not an issue. Does dairy go bad? Sure it does. But not as quickly as you and others seem to think.

          And my kitchen smells just fine with butter and a red velvet cake with cream cheese frosting on the counter top. Imagine that.

          There is no magic in refrigeration. Stuff still can go bad before you eat it. The only difference is in how long. If you eat it before it goes bad there is no reason to put it in the fridge.

  11. dolemite says:

    “Cower, chiseled curmudgeons and crooked cooks, before the…Cheesecake Chastiser!”

  12. profmonster says:

    You could also try NY1, the Time Warner local NYC news channel. I bet they’d be interested.

  13. Cat says:

    “If we hide them in the cooler, our sales would plummet.”

    “Fuck your sales, we’ve got to protect the public!”

  14. shthar says:

    How much do I not want to work where this woman shops.

    • George4478 says:

      Because it would cramp your desire to sell spoiled food?

    • MMD says:

      Why? Do you hate people who have concerns about product safety? Or common sense? Or women in general?

    • crispyduck13 says:

      Yeah nothing chaps my ass more than customers pointing out blatent health department violations that could get your store shut down. They’re right up there with the ones who bring expired merchandise they’ve found up to customer service without making a fuss or those that alert employees about a spill that someone could slip on.

      Bad apples, all of them.

  15. MrMagoo is usually sarcastic says:

    Why do you continue going to this store? If they’re lax on cheesecake, they’re probably doing even worse stuff with meat, sour cream, bakery items, etc. If I walk into a restaurant and see cockroaches in the waiting area, I assume the kitchen has them too, and I leave.

    Send a letter to the owner of the store, the health department, mayor’s office, and a news station; find a new store, and stop worrying about it.

    • Coleoptera Girl says:

      Perfect! This, exactly. Angela, you can only do so much. Inform as many people as can do something about it, then let it go. If someone you know shops there, you might also encourage them (mention it twice, max…) to send a couple messages, too.

  16. sirwired says:

    You could, I dunno, CALL the health department? I’m sure they have a specific phone number for reporting problems, as opposed to a generic e-mail address for random inquiries from the public.

    • GuyGuidoEyesSteveDave‚Ñ¢ says:

      Good point. Speaking to someone whom you ask for their name is usually a good motivator.

  17. vmxeo says:

    +1 to the comments for calling it into one of the local news stations.

    You could also forward this to Gothamist (Since they’ll probably end up reposting it anyway).

  18. TinaBringMeTheAx says:

    Why in heaven’s name are you redacting the name of a grocery store that might be putting the public health in peril?

    • Perry says:

      I’m going to go with the obvious observation that there’s no proof what store this is taking place in, other than the submitter’s word. I also can’t see the “keep refrigerated” stamp in the pics.

      For all we know, the subby works at the grocery across the street from the one she’s calling out and this is a nefarious plot to kill the competition…

  19. SoCalGNX says:

    How about a visit from a local TV consumer investigator? I am sure the area has at least one.

  20. Pinget says:

    All of that stuff is thaw and sell. It is shelf stable for 3 days. I admire your optimism that this stuff is made like you would make it at home but it’s not. It is so full of preservatives that it can sit there like that. Really.

  21. There's room to move as a fry cook says:

    Instead of of emailing – try phoning the Health Dept or going to their offices.

  22. Gravitational Eddy says:

    …they meant to put on the labels, “refrigerate after opening”….

  23. baquwards says:

    If cream pies are made with a commercial non-dairy whipped topping such as Richs’ Bettercream, that fluffy crap that you can get on some birthday cakes, than it has a minimum of 5 days non-refrigerated shelf life, because it doesn’t actually contain any natural food product in the topping, just HFCS, water and chemicals.

    The cheesecakes are also factory produced and may just have enough preservatives to keep them shelf stable. I’ve worked in many grocery store bakeries and some of the things that come labeled “shelf stable” is actually surprising. We carry egg custard pies with a 6 day unrefrigerated shelf life.

  24. Valerick says:

    This is tabloid level stuff here. “Protect the public”? Really? How you can “protect the public” is to start by coming from an informed position instead of wildly harassing every authority figure you can think of. The food is perfectly safe on those shelves and the “Keep Refrigerated” label is a customer storing suggestion, not a grocery store display mandate.

  25. Yacko says:

    Ask yourself, “what would Matter-Eater Lad do?”

    • dru_zod says:

      No concerns about spoiled pies there. He’d just eat the containers. And possibly the shelving.

  26. TRRosen says:

    You do realize these items are cooked right? There is no real health issue with leaving them out. The worst thing that is likely to happen is they may separate and get watery after a few days. However I would bet these item are only on the shelf for a day or so anyways.

  27. Press1forDialTone says:

    Give them to the person who can’t say no to their relatives when they ask for money.
    He or She will love ’em and won’t complain that they will send him/her to the emergency

  28. Press1forDialTone says:

    If you won’t say the name of the grocery selling the rotting items,
    just hit delete before you publish the associated story and go grow
    some balls.

  29. ThunderRoad says:

    Call ’em up, tell ’em you got food poisoning and noticed their needs-refrigerated items aren’t being and that you have pictures and will be going to your lawyer and haw haw haw.

    Bet they fix it in about 47 seconds.

  30. exscind says:

    Why is the name hidden? We should be humiliating these guys!

  31. iluvhatemail says:

    take a sharpie and write “spoiled” on each one. nobody will buy it after.

  32. qwerty017 says:

    How Can I Protect The Public From Potentially Spoiled Cheesecakes?

    Send you pictures and story to a place that won’t redact the name of the store so the public knows where the potentially spoiled cheesecakes are.

  33. Minj says:

    She’s probably freakout if she went to other countries and saw that they didn’t refrigerate eggs..

  34. GuyGuidoEyesSteveDave‚Ñ¢ says:

    Would 311 be a option here? I know you get a case number for a follow up. Then you can call up Bloomberg on his weekly radio show and ask him to follow up.

  35. Captain Walker says:

    And she keeps going to this store . . . assuming the cakes are the only “dangerous” thing there?

  36. dilbert69 says:

    Make the name of the store public. Problem solved.

  37. Tacojelly says:

    Buy one.

    Then call or email the district manager and simply say you are finding a lawyer. The problem will get solved real quick.

  38. Mrs. w/1 child says:

    I’m guessing that the “creme” and “cheesecake” ingredients are actually chemical industrial food concoctions. Otherwise the photo would show some melting, condensation/sweating, or wilting of the “creme” and “cheesecake”.

    Don’t worry too much, people eat at fast food places where the food is kept at room temperature and still made of mostly non food ingredients, this probably will not kill anyone.

    On another note – I would be frightened of all the other “food” in that store considering the cavalier way they handle “food”.

  39. gameraboy says:

    NYC is easy, just call 311 and complain.

  40. Charmander says:

    When I see the words “creme pie” I’m pretty sure that it doesn’t need to be refrigerated.

  41. Not Given says:

    My store has cheesecakes that look just like that. They are refrigerated.

  42. jewpiterjones says:

    Or maybe a consumer blog could write a story about it and tell us the name of the store so we can not shop there.

  43. MisterE says:

    This is obviously a consumer issue…How about posting the name of the store so the rest of us could avoid? Once the bad publicity reaches management, they’ll be forced to do the right thing.

  44. lihtox says:

    I’m wondering what the response was from the store and/or the health department. Did they ignore her? Did they give an explanation?

  45. Holey says:

    Why not contact the manufacturer? They might have an interest in making sure their pies don’t sicken people. They also might be able to tell you whether or not the lack of refrigeration will actually be a health hazard.