SALEM, Ore. — Oregon's secretary of state says the agriculture department is behind on food safety inspections of food processors, dairies, grocery stores and others and the shortcomings need to be addressed to protect people from sickness.

The Food Safety Program is responsible for regulating more than 12,000 food safety licenses in the state of Oregon. Auditors found that, as of October, 2,841 licenses were past due for an inspection by more than three months.

The audit was released Tuesday by Secretary of State Jeanne P. Atkins. It stresses that adhering to food safety regulations is crucial to minimize the risk of contamination, and that it's up to food safety inspectors to make sure those regulations are followed.