July 14, 2017 10:20 PM
A Rochester restaurant employee recently emailed pictures of the kitchen where he works to News10NBC. Those pictures show mold, mouse droppings and filth. But when the Monroe County Health Department inspected the restaurant, inspectors cited it with no critical violations.
Health inspectors say while mouse droppings may make you squirm, they don't necessarily pose an immediate health risk. In this Restaurants Exposed report, News10NBC takes a look at what health inspectors say poses a risk to your health.
Evan Archibald says he worked at Pontillo's Pizzeria on Park Avenue in Rochester for almost a year and saw mice almost daily. But what concerned him most were the droppings the mice left behind in the large walk-in refrigerator. He took pictures of mouse droppings littering the floor of the cooler – just feet from where unwrapped raw chicken sat in an open container. He also documented dough racks covered in what appears to be mold as well as dirty floors and cutting boards. And he didn't stop there. He sent the pictures and video to the Monroe County Department of Health.
"I contacted the health department, and within three hours of me contacting them they were there," said Archibald.
A Monroe County health inspector cited the restaurant with nine violations - noting that “the floor was soiled with grease and mouse droppings”. But none is deemed a critical violation that puts public health at risk. That shocked Archibald. He wanted to know, “Why droppings next to food wasn't a critical hit."
That's our question as well. Dr. Mike Mendoza, the Monroe County Commissioner of Public Health is out of town. Deputy Commissioner Frank Golisano declined News10NBC’s request for an interview but sent an email explaining that if the health inspector had found droppings in the food, the violation would have been considered critical.
That appears to contradict what Dr. Mendoza told News10NBC in an interview three months ago. Dr. Mendoza explained why mouse droppings in food storage areas is a risk to public health.
"If they're in the food storage areas you have to assume that they've been in and around the food. Otherwise, they wouldn't - that's why they go to those areas. So that's why we presume that they've been involved in the food," said Dr. Mendoza.
But Deputy Commissioner Golisano insisted the health department followed the letter of the law when inspecting Pontillo's. He also pointed out the fact the restaurant was ordered to clean up, and an inspector found “it much improved” a week later.
The owner of the Park Avenue Pontillo's declined an interview, but spoke to News10NBC by phone. She didn’t dispute the pictures do show mouse droppings. But she insisted she hired an exterminator months ago. And even though she still had droppings on the floor in late June, she said they were old droppings. As for the droppings in the walk-in refrigerator, she said they were stuck to the floor and hard to remove. Asked why she didn’t clean up the droppings herself instead of waiting to be told to do so by a health inspector, she pointed to the fact that the restaurant is clean now, and she insisted Archibald is disgruntled attention-seeking ex-employee.
To that Archibald responded, “The photos don't lie."
Before you go out to eat, consider our advice. Here’s Deanna’s Do List.
1. Check the restaurants inspection record.
2. If you see a problem, report it.
Updated: July 14, 2017 10:20 PM
Created: July 14, 2017 08:02 PM
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