Health Inspectors Share The Grossest Things They've Seen In Restaurants
If you've ever eaten at a restaurant, plan on eating at a restaurant or have ever even heard the word restaurant - this one's for you
Things are going to get gross, don't say we didn't warn you. We know you're stubborn and you're going to read ahead anyway. So prepare yourself, you're about to enter a world of roaches, bribery, dumpster diving, and at least one live bear.
No that was not a typo.
One Reddit user asked:
And we clicked it, for some reason. We sat here for like three hours, you guys. We got sucked into the world of grossness. Now you're about to suffer with the things we can't unread. You ready to be well and truly baffled at what on earth is wrong with some people?
I was performing a pest control service on one restaurant that was shut down by the health inspector. 4 techs, spending 5 hours treating for German cockroaches. I have NEVER seen an infestation more severe than this one. When we were finished for the day, i would say that there were at least a few thousand cockroaches still running around. Health inspector collected an envelope from the owner, took down the violation on the door, got in his car and drove off. He didn't even reinspect the place.
Shut down a restaurant awhile back as there was a severe rodent infestation. I'm talking poop everywhere, in the utensil bins, on the food prep surfaces, just everywhere. Owners were brushing it aside as they worked. Live mice stuck to glue traps under sinks, etc.
Closed Down By A Can Opener
I've only ever closed down one restaurant. It's actually much harder in most places than you would imagine: lots of red tape that prevent field staff, and even managers, from using their professional judgment in the service of public health.
A pizza place was operating without a permit at one point in time. I had drafted a letter stating that, and before I went out to hand-deliver it, I got a complaint notification. Someone had eaten their pizza the day before, and their son had felt glass (or something that felt like pulverized glass) in his pizza. Backing up for a moment to the red tape thing: we're not legally allowed to investigate or inspect restaurants who don't have a permit (you can thank the U.S. Constitution for that). You can see the dilemma. We decide the best course of action is to deliver the letter saying they're operating illegally, and that it would be in the best interest of their business and the public health to allow us to investigate the nature of the complaint.
After I get permission to go in and take a look around, I'm appalled: the manager has fingernails that extend probably half an inch beyond the nail bed. And they're caked in flour and other ingredients. The other employee there has dirty bandages all over his fingers. Both of these characters are dressed in filthy uniforms. The walk-in cooler has loads of uncovered foods sitting beneath mold, all beneath a ceiling of black filamentous fungi. The pizza-prep table has broken doors/hinges, and is covered with what I can only describe as putrified ingredients from 2003. It clearly hasn't been cleaned since then. The plastic lexan containers holding the food items in the cooler are all breaking apart and chipping... At this point, I've got a few ideas as to what that guy found in his pizza, and I don't think any of them are glass. It's probably a fingernail, or a band-aid, or plastic, or maybe broken metal from the cooler itself...
Then I see it... The most disgusting can opener I've ever seen. To put it in perspective, mounted can openers are like the low hanging fruit of every health inspector: they're almost always out of compliance, and writing one up will make you look like a Try-Hard jerk who's out to get the restaurant owner in trouble. They're usually not a big deal. Except this one. This one is absolutely caked in dried, vile, pizza sauce goop that has turned black with age. The blade itself is so dull and chipped it is literally peeling metal filaments off into a mass next to the blade. Every time this thing is used to open a new pizza sauce (which, by the way, is put into a cracked plastic container and covered with a trashbag to keep the loads of flies away) it deposits metal chips, flakes, filaments, whatever you wanna call it, into that sauce, and into the bellies of the customers.
Needless to say, I was appalled. I had the person in charge call the store owner, who pleaded with me to let him stay open. Given that they didn't even have a permit to be open in the first place, this was a no-go. I went back the next day with back-up, and we formally closed them for operation until they could get everything back into working order. Surprise surprise, they call the next day saying everything is fixed, and... I can't believe it, but it was. Managerial lack of control aside, they must have spent a thousand dollars and 16 hours into cleaning this place. The one dude even clipped his fingernails!
Success story? Maybe. Gross example of what you get with second-rate poorly managed restaurants? Definitely. They're lucky no one has yet died from eating there.
That's Not Lemonade
Not a health inspector, but am good friends with one. This is her worst experience.
Once she went into a pretty popular restaurant (I think it was a burger place?) that she just got bad vibes from the beginning. Walked into the main seating area, everything was good so far. Asked where the kitchen was, owner was instantly defensive, like "oh, you don't need to see that, it looks the same as the dining area," and so forth.
She found the kitchen door, opened it and looked inside and instantly dropped everything she was holding.
/Hundreds/ of 2 litre cola bottles lined the kitchen, filled with urine.
She had no idea why and nobody could get an answer out of that dude
One of the most recent restaurants I worked in already wasn't the cleanest - our fryers rarely got strained/emptied properly, it wasn't rare to see roaches crawling around, their bathrooms were always nasty, etc. When you get right down to it, it was one of the most disgusting kitchens that I have ever had the displeasure of working in, but what made me genuinely say "f*ck this" was when our plumbing and pipe work below the restaurant became clogged and then began backing up into the kitchen through the drains that we had along the flooring in there.
For more than a month my coworkers and I were sloshing around in sewage and human waste and whatever else, still serving food and pretending like nothing was going on. We could all hear patrons in the dining room complaining about the smell and the stench would hit you in the back parking lot before you'd even get inside. The owners kept making small "improvements", essentially lame band-aids to take care of it for only days at a time, and by the time I completely threw in the towel it still hadn't properly been fixed and they were still serving food from that deplorable, rank kitchen.
Once I quit and had amnesty from being fired for being a whistle blower, you can bet your ass I reported that restaurant to OSHA and they had health inspectors go through there. I reported them to my local health department as well. Unfortunately last I heard they're still open (figures), but I do know one or two of their other locations closed down for unrelated reasons, so....I guess that's something?
If I had been the owner of that restaurant, I would have not been able to live with myself knowing food was being served from that hellish kitchen or knowing that I was making my employees work under those conditions.
There was a store in the area that got caught cleaning their Coolata machine with mop water... There were not details on if the mop water was clean or not (I assume it was), but there are issues regardless.
I used to work as a health inspector. Was inspecting a kitchen area undergoing some remodeling to include removal of a center island. No openings, essentially a box with a table top. This island had probably been in place 10-15 years. When the top was removed, it was half full of dead cockroaches that had layered on top of each other over the years. Happy dining!
Sniff The Gasket
I am both a former chef and a former private health inspector. I've seen some crazy stuff, but there is little worse than supermarket meat departments. I will not buy meat which has been ground in the market, because the employees almost never know how to tear down and clean the grinder. I would regularly go in, show them how to take it apart, and make them smell the "gasket" of old meat that had never been cleaned out from between the parts.
Close 'Em Down Kathy
My mother was a health inspector some years back. She was known as Close 'Em Down Kathy (not her real name, but you get the drift)
She went to a Chinese restaurant one day to pick up lunch, brought it back to her office, opened up the bag and found a live cockroach staring back at her. She immediately stormed back to the restaurant, shoved the bag in their face and said:
"I didn't order the cockroach."
She ordered an inspection on the restaurant, found out they kept their cooked chickens hung on a metal rack, in the alley, ABOVE THE DUMPSTER. They were shut down pretty quickly,
My mom's a badass.
NSFW ... or Anywhere Else.
Not a health inspector, but when I worked at a sub shop we caught a co-worker doing something inappropriate.
My manager had to look at the camera for some unrelated reason. He is skipping forward and accidentally goes to far forward. He notices a worker putting a bin of tuna on the floor. He keeps looking at the tape. The worker pulls his pants down and proceeds to enter the bin of tuna. He makes sweet sweet love to the tuna. Finishes up, goes into the bathroom to clean off. Proceeds to smooth out the bin of tuna, wraps it back up and puts it in the fridge. My manager immediately has me throw out the tuna and make more. Needless to say he was fired. And while this was 20 years ago I still can't eat tuna I didn't make or see made.
The Rotten Salad Bar
Was a tradesman working on a hotel where the new owner was renovating/updating the entire building, including their restaurant. Every single member of the kitchen staff got fired when the new owner discovered that the salad bar hadn't been cleaned/sterilized in months; they just kept adding more food on top of the old stuff.
Coffee Makes You Poop
There was a serial floor sh*tter at this coffee place. I'd get complaints in multiple times a week over the span of several months and the manager was aware that a customer came in like clockwork and shat in the middle of the bathroom floor. Not much I could do besides making sure the spot gets cleaned properly.
Hospital Restaurant Worms
A coworker had to investigate complaint called in by a food employee at a hospital saying they were forced to work in an ankle-deep sewage backup. The backup was confirmed and he said he could see the bodies of sewer worms slithering around.The restaurant/cafeteria of this hospital was serving food prepped in a kitchen full or worms and sewage to people who were already sick. People probably died.
There's Bleach In The Water
In a college campus cafeteria, I once saw a lady who was alternating between cleaning tables and serving the salads. She would go to a table, stick her gloved hands into a bowl of dark/filthy water, scrub a table -- then walk back to the salad bar, use the same gloved hands to grab a handful of salad, and put it on a plate for the students.
I gave her a stunned/horrified face, totally on reflex.
She saw me, and said -- and I quote -- "Oh it's fine, I'm wearing gloves and there's bleach in the water."
So to summarize, she thought that serving food with gloves that're covered in filth and bleach was safe, because she "was wearing gloves" and "using bleach."
I can't even.
Meaty Tomato Soup
OK so my dad was a health and hygiene officer in the air force back in the early 50s and was stationed in England. His job included inspecting kitchen and latrine facilities at bases, overseeing quarantine on troops returning home from Europe, and doing health inspections on said troops.
He and some fellow H&H officers were on leave in London and decided to have lunch at a pub that was advertising a soup and sandwich deal. They sit down to piping hot bowls of tomato soup and are talking and eating, when one of the guys says "Mmm good soup, nice and meaty."
Everyone stops talking as it sinks in that tomato soup should not have meat in it, and my dad reluctantly digs his spoon to the bottom of his bowl and comes up with several well cooked cockroaches. Being trained in such things, they stormed into the kitchen and confirmed that the place had their soup heating on a back burner uncovered and directly below a cold water pipe. The rising steam condenses on the pipe, makes it slippery and causes whatever scurry across it to fall into the soup. They yelled at the owner and reported the place, but beyond that they couldn't do much about the unexpected protein.
Two For One
The two inspections that I remember being horrible were both at low end Chinese places in strip malls. In one inspection, the wok chef had an overflowing ashtray right next to the meat bins. Rodent droppings, piles of dead flies behind the range, open doors to the outside, just nasty.
We also had to check soda machines and the hoses and guns. The soda gun line at one place was so caked with mold and funk it was a miracle that soda could even get through, we couldn't figure out how any previous inspector had missed that or what happened. The soda gun was the worst because it ruined eating out and having a mixed drink.
I'll never be able to drink anything out of a soda gun ever again.
Nope, Not Russia
My Mom used to be a health inspector. A bar had a bear chained outside and the owners would bring it inside to hangout with the patrons sometimes. Not Russia, but close - the Upper Peninsula of Michigan.
The Mop Sink
Walked into a Mexican restaurant one time and saw some lady soaking some tripe in a mop sink. Saw that and told them to throw all of it in the dumpster and bleach it in front of me. My boss had seen a restaurant defrosting raw shrimp in a mop sink with the mop draped over the faucet. When I started as a health inspector, the trainers kept telling us:
_"Be on the lookout for mop sink chicken." _
We kept asking what it was- and they just replied:
_"you'll know when you see it..." _
They were right.
Chinese restaurant was getting ready to open for lunch. I walked in and temperature checked the items in the walk-in cooler. All of them were well above acceptable temperatures; the cooler had broken down in the night and was no longer functioning.
They wanted to serve the food anyway. I had to embargo the entire cooler worth of food and stood there as they filled trash bag after trash bag with meat and took it to the dumpster. As I was leaving the location, I drove around to the back and they had employees pulling it all out of the trash and dragging it back into the building.
I had to stop them, make them return it to the dumpster and pour straight bleach all over the food to ensure it could not be used.