Business

A nationwide grocery chain has a rodent problem in Florida, according to inspections

UPDATE FROM SUNDAY, JULY 8: The failed inspection for the Tallahassee store on Brevard Street has posted, showing that it belongs on this list. An inspector did a drop-in on a closed Fort Myers store.

Rodents ran — and pooped and urinated — five Family Dollar stores in Florida into failure on the stores’ most recent state inspections. At least two of those stores were closed to deal with the problem, but one of them has re-opened and remains rodent-riddled.

That’s according to the latest inspections available on the Florida Department of Agriculture website as of Sunday morning.

All food-selling chains, from Florida’s supermarket Gargantua Publix on down, experience an inspection fail once in a while. But rodent-related failures don’t happen often to chains as ubiquitous as Family Dollar and repetition achieves a rare low, especially with the details listed below.

Emails to Dollar Tree, which owns the Family Dollar chain, asking about the continuous rodent problem in the Greenacres store then about the Greenacres and Jacksonville stores were not answered.

So, there’s no indication whether or not any of these Family Dollars will be among the 390 Family Dollar stores that Dollar Tree plans on closing, the 200 that will be rebranded as Dollar Tree stores or the 1,000 that will be renovated. Dollar Tree announced these plans in March.

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To the stores:

540 Brevard St., Tallahassee — Out in the retail area, “Five large rodent droppings observed on the floor.” In the stock room, “many large and small rodent droppings observed on the floor. Also, two bags of pet food have holes in them by being gnawed by the rodents.”

1177 Plum St., Jennings — The first violation on this Family Dollar’s inspection Thursday described a scene from the retail shelves.

“Accumulation of rodent excreta found on floor area under pet food selves and one corner of building on floor and on shelf located at corner.”

5055 10th Ave. N, Greenacres — The troubles of this store have been well-chronicled over the last two months in the Miami Herald’s biweekly Gross Grocers report. And Dollar Tree closed the store in May for several days after two horrific inspections.

It’s failed two inspections since re-opening in May. Here are details from the second, previously seen in the June 20 Gross Grocers report.

“Rodent dropping underneath and on shelving in Home Décor and Laundry aisle, by the pet foods, in corners of store by the bleach shelves, in children’s toys aisle, in corner of the store by single use paper products, on sandwich bag shelf, underneath soda endcap, underneath the food aisle gondolas, on shelves by peanuts and canned products.”

“Observed chew marks on cans of peanuts and on boxes of powdered chemicals.”

In the backroom, “rodent droppings by office door and bathroom door to the left of the water fountain. Observed fur and pieces of skin stuck to wire rack on top of water fountain.”

“Rodent droppings were also observed in backroom receiving area by the double-door hinges, underneath electrical panel, around wet mop sink, on top of internet box and other electrical devices.”

1282 Kings Rd., Jacksonville — Management at this store requested a postponement of the June 14 re-inspection and had a meeting with Department of Agriculture inspectors to “assist the food establishment with compliance of recent food safety observations and continuing issues.”

That can indicate the store has been closed until their rodent issues can be resolved, especially as there’s a Stop Use order on receiving new food items and on the shelves. There was no answer when the store was called Sunday morning.

The store has failed its last four inspections. The store met with inspectors about the problem after three. On May 23, the Department of Agriculture said “A re-inspection will be conducted on or about seven days (05/31/19) per food establishment request.”

That might’ve been premature.

In the backroom on May 31, there was a 1-inch diameter hole in the wall “with evidence of rodent activity.”

The retail shelves also held such evidence: “chewed bags of potato chips, egg noodles, tortillas, pet food and cookie mix on retail shelving. Rodent feces and urine on retail shelving at packaged nuts, tortillas and pet food areas.

In the backroom, “excessive rodent feces on shelves in back near the point of entry found along wall.”

But at least the inspector just saw evidence of rodent presence, not the rodents themselves, as on the April 24 inspection.

“Rodent droppings, chewed and tattered pet food bags. One live mouse found on sticky trap in pet food area. Product shelving placed on Stop Use Order. Receiving door placed on Stop Use Order for the receiving of food items.

“Six dead mice on sticky trap in pet food area.”

That’s fewer than the first bad inspection, on April 9, when the inspection saw “two live mice and 12 dead mice on sticky trap in pet food area.”

2222 Fowler St., Fort Myers — On June 13, Inspector Carl Holzworth noted, “The store voluntarily closed on May 30th” and “the Supervisor stated when the store is ready for a Re-Inspection he will call Tallahassee.”

Here’s some of what Holzworth saw on May 30 inspection: “The Sparkle paper towels, Value paper towels, Scott paper towels, Bounty paper towels, Viva paper towels, Home Line paper towels all had rodent droppings and urine on them.

“Rodent droppings on the paper towel shelving and paper towels, in the front corner next to the beer cooler and wine display. Rodent droppings in storage units being sold. The drawers are full of droppings.”

On Tuesday, Holzworth dropped into the still-closed store and “found rodent droppings through out the retail area on the floor, on the display shelving, back room floor, on top of the freezers and coolers...found rodent rubbings on the top of the coolers and freezers and up the wall behind the coolers on the electrical conduit...the sounds of rodents squeaking and the rustling over the metal girders of the stores frame.

“The smell of rodent urine is strong in the store.”

Since 1989, David J. Neal’s domain at the Miami Herald has expanded to include writing about Panthers (NHL and FIU), Dolphins, old school animation, food safety, fraud, naughty lawyers, bad doctors and all manner of breaking news. He drinks coladas whole. He does not work Indianapolis 500 Race Day.
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