How Safe are DC’s Grocery Stores? Two Horrible Reader Experiences

“Dear PoP,

In late-October I wrote you about a Market that was relabeling its food packages with sell-by dates that did not align with the manufacturer’s sell-by dates.

Their practice of food relabeling made me feel frustrated and exploited and so I reported their actions to the Department of Health. The DOH quickly responded with a surprise inspection with sickening revelations… Here are some highlights:

* “The “Fresh Boneless Beef Chuck Tender” has an insect on the meat inside the container.”
* “The sausages were not labeled with pull dates.”
* “The chicken livers have a sell by date of November 11, 2010.” (The inspection was performed on the 15th)”
* “Rodent droppings were observed in the walk-in refrigerator, basement ceiling and pipes, and shelves throughout the store. A dead mouse was observed in a glue trap in the produce prep area. A very strong scent of rodent urine is prevalent in the store.”
* “A plunger was in the sink in the produce prep area.”
* “There are numerous food spills in the ice cream freezer. The floors in the walk-in refrigerators are wet and dirty; moisture is coming up from between the floor tiles in one walk-in refrigerator. The walk-in refrigerator gaskets are unclean. The walk-in refrigerators’ fan guards are rusted and dust-covered.”

These are just a few of the TWENTY-FIVE violations that DOH inspectors revealed…The full-report is here, and it is TERRIBLE.

This report did not address my personal concern with the deceptive relabeling of meat packages at the store, but it was damning enough to cause the store to be closed for a number of days. Upon reopening, however. The market looked oddly unchanged.

The milk and eggs are still being stored at room temperature…and while I can’t go back stage to watch food prep, I highly doubt that this market has changed its ways.

I didn’t want to raise another fuss…but me, my girlfriend, and my awesome neighbors deserve MUCH better.

So, I am asking for the public’s attention again, and am enclosing a picture of a pack of chicken that I purchased on January 28th (Note the retailer has changed the date to January 31st and the manufacturer has stamped a date for January 29th.) … THAT’S RIGHT FOLKS!!!! They are STILL mislabeling the meat on the shelves. I applaud the DOH’s initial efforts, but urge them to try again. How could a place like this even reopen?

This market is conveniently located (5010 NEW HAMPSHIRE AVE NW), but totally exploitative… I could go on to talk about the open air liquor drinking in the parking lot, or the drugs being traded on their front steps, or even talk about the wine, beer, and cigarettes that they allow people to buy with their Government Assistance Cards… but I digress and I need to get to work.”

I also received the following email this week:

“Dear PoP,

I just returned from the City Vista Safeway at 490 L Street NW, Washington, DC and I’d like to share my experience with your readers. I have been a regular shopper for the past year, spending $100 per week on average. However, after today’s experience, it’s unlikely that I’ll ever return.

Upon arrival, the Starbucks was unstaffed and the counter completely a mess. I waited for 5 minutes without being helped and decided to shop empty handed.

I went on to pick up some Odwalla bars on sale, located just steps from the Starbucks. The first box had packages with holes chewed through individual bars, and the next box had multiple mouse droppings.

Disgusted and frustrated, I thought I’d continue my shopping experience but quickly changed my mind when I came across a stand full of moldy nectarines, one of this week’s featured produce items.

Finally, I attempted to share my grievances with the customer service representative on staff. I waited in line to speak with a representative but after 10 minutes of waiting, I was still 5 people away from reaching the counter.”

The first reader strongly recommends that you contact the Department of Health if you encounter similar circumstances.

Do you think these are two unusual situations or is this indicative of the quality of DC’s grocery stores? Obviously the first example is inexcusable, appalling and extremely dangerous. I also find the second example disturbing and upsetting. But I am curious how common the second example may be. The lack of customer service is of course frustrating. But to be blunt – I wonder how many grocery stores have mice and spoiled fruit? I fear the answer is more than one. But then again, I suspect over half of us have mice in our homes. I’ve also heard/read examples of mice in restaurants. It is truly upsetting and disgusting to think about – but I’m just wondering how common it is and how dangerous it is? I don’t mean to trivialize how serious this could be so I’ll just repeat the title of this post – how safe are DC’s grocery stores?

110 Comment

  • Terrible stories. When people stop shopping there, they will go out of business. Publicizing this should help even if the health department doesn’t. Thanks for the 411.

    • Isn’t there a problem with the health inspections not being public records? I thought I remembered reading that — which was shocking, because DC is home to all the consumer and open government groups, which apparently don’t give a damn about consumer protection or open government policy in the District itself.

  • This doesn’t surprise me in the slightest. Everything in DC is pretty much subpar.

  • To the guy about the Avenue Market I have to ask…

    Are you this dense by nature, or are you trying? It is some nasty little no name grocer in an even nastier strip shop. You’ve PERSONALLY witnessed or been party to some pretty disgusting violations of the health code and yet you continue to shop there and then indignantly wonder why things haven’t gotten better.

    What the heck do you expect? It isn’t a Whole Foods or something. An independant store that is run that way doesn’t change, they only get better at hiding their problems. Why in the world would you ever even remotely consider patronizing a place like that again after you repeatedly witnessed these things?

    My recommendation, shop elsewhere.

    • Hey Joker…cynacism noted… thanks.

      I’m not dense… the sad truth is. WE HAVE NO WHERE ELSE TO SHOP… This is where my community gets its food, and your smug observations ignore that we actually…really…DON’T have any other options. Look at the intersections near that store and tell me where else I can walk to? For many people this is all they got. I can go to Whole Foods sure, but that isn’t where I live. Moreover, what about my neighbor? He is pushing 80 and doesn’t have the means that you or I have to get around. I guess he’s shit out of luck right?!?

      NO… I want something better for the neighbors, myself. Would I rather forget the mess and stroll by – just order my shit from pea-pod. You bet I would… That wouldn’t fix this problem though…

      Finally, you aren’t aware, but take note: I DID, in fact, stop shopping there after my first complaint in Oct… I went back only once since then… to see if anything changed.

      • Ignoring Joker’s comments… We actually have an amazing public transportation system. You have options.

        • This isn’t about transportation…its about fixing what needs to be fixed not going to “your nice part of town” to buy food. I’m not gonna take 4 hours out of my life when i just need some fucking eggs.

          • Just because you don’t want to be bothered to plan ahead and buy a week’s worth of groceries you want everyone to jump into your little problem du jour like you’re some sort of critical piece of economic infrastructure. You have legs and internet access; get peapod to deliver you some groceries. Not everyone gets to move where the rent is cheap and have the neighborhood cater to their every need.

            You’re kind of being an a$$hat so I’m not sure anyone should care. Stop being such a lame activist and start doing what reasonable people do.

          • Hyperbolic much?

            4 hours? Really? What, do you drive to Harrisburg PA and back for groceries? There aren’t any grocery stores on the way to work? Google has approximately 20 other grocers large and small within a 2 mile radius of that address and yet the op repeatedly uses the one he/she knows for a fact is disgusting.

            There are two themes here buddy:

            1. You, like so many others I see apparently move into a neighborhood with zero “walkable” grocery options despite the fact that it seems incredibly important to you that you be able to do all your grocery shopping within a 5 minute walk of your house, and then have the gall to be surprised by it. It’s like moving next door to a fire station and then spending all your time complaining about the sirens.

            2. Your complete inability to reason as an rationle adult. I mean, for chrissakes, you witness multiple disgusting healthcode infractions, and yet you continue to go there and have the chutzpah to be indignant. As I said, these small independant bodegas aren’t going to completely revamp their business model because some clueless yuppie moved into the hood thinking that his/her presence is worthy of Whole Foods quality for nasty bodega prices.

            They will either just get better at hiding it, or they will go out of business, neither solves your problem. So, take the initiative to act like an adult and shop elsewhere. Or don’t, I could care less.

          • People are completely missing the point.

            Because OP presumably has the resources to go elsewhere, the remaining people in his neighborhood deserve to have to put up with illegal, unsanitary conditions and OP is a privileged ass for objecting to them? Are you listening to yourselves?

            Joker, have you ever actually tried to get a week’s worth of groceries for a family on public transportation? It’s not easy. And could easily take hours, depending on time of day, bus schedules, having to bring kids, etc.

            Do you think low income people are stupid? Or like rat shit in their food and expired meat?

            No one is asking that this store turn into a whole foods, just that they stop selling expired, dangerous food and clean up the mouse poop. And if they can’t they should be shut down by the government.

          • Joker, and anon.

            You guys are really missing the point here. I can plan ahead. I do shop elsewhere. At the same time, I want to see change because this place should not be doing business in our community.
            Please note, I don’t rent…I’m not just floating through D.C. like most of you. I own my house, I live one block away. This is my home and I do care enough to see it change. My neighbors do too.

            I don’t know where your anger comes from, or why make so many assumptions about who you are talking to. But an adult doesn’t solve problems by running from them, Joker.

            Rather than “not shrugging and taking my money elsewhere” I’ve initiated multiple investigations and have gotten this place shut down before… I will do it again and again too. This location is under-serving the community…not just me.

            We aren’t asking for them to cater to our every need… just our basic needs. This isn’t as irrational or terrible as you guys seem intent to say.

      • “in the p” FTW!

    • “Are you this dense by nature, or are you trying?”

      Pretty much every comment you (joker) make on this blog includes some sort of smug insult.

      My recommendation, grow up.

    • Wow. Just wow. Are we really blaming the person who is bringing unsanitary and unsafe conditions to light?

  • When shopping at the Safeway at 17th & Corcoran Sts, several times I have picked up sealed loaves of bread (e.g. Pepperidge Farm) that had been eaten by mice or rats. I now look extra carefully at whatever I pick up in that store.

  • Thanks to gentrification, there are plenty of choices. By foot, bus, car, Metro. If you’re truly hard pressed, go to CVS. Let the yokels shop at the crappy places…

    • So the poor, disabled, or elderly residents of that community are the yokels, huh Professor? I now understand why some members of the long-time community fine some gentrifiers to have smug, obnoxious twats.

      • ++++++++++++++++++++++++++

      • Twats? Come on. Don’t through “The elderly, etc.” in my face. They have family, they have options, too. I grew up around here and yes, there are too many younger, trifling folks who are locked into a mindset. People shop at these places by choice, by rote, not necessity. The folks you see NOT in these place but far a pack of gum pick up are the ones one the ball. Which is why there’s nice chunk of the populace who love new development. A redone Giant or Safeway…even a Yes market.

        • Yes, it is a universal rule that all elderly people have family who can and will provide for them.

          Feel bad for the OP–you’re doing the right thing!

    • Honestly ProfChris… people aren’t shopping at this place because they are ignorant “yokels”. I live a few blocks away and go through great pains to get my stuff (even dry goods) from ANYWHERE else. The majority of folks don’t have a car like I do though…and the prospect of making a 4 hour excursion for groceries (especially when you only need one or two things) is not reasonable to expect.

      there are choices, yes, but here we have a pocket of deprivation that has been limited despite their will for something better.

  • God – that shopping center on New Hampshire is such a cesspool of horrors for that neighborhood. Probably 10 times worse than the Nemiah Center on 14th back in the day. Hopefully they will demolish the whole thing and build something more pleasant – maybe just a parking lot or just a big pit – either would be better.

  • I am sad to hear that about the newish safeway on L street, I shop there all the time and have been happy so far. Seemed much cleaner and more organized than the giant at 7th and P. Unfortunately it sounds like a local management issue (a trend I have noticed with dc locations of national chains hiring local – which I totally support as long as they take the time to hire competent local people…) and I would say corporate would probably want to know about it asap. They just spent a lot of money there so I would think they would want to keep it nice. Especially with the Harris Teeter that just opened a few blocks east.

    • harris teeter is going to make it worse by even further splitting up the small pool of people who want to buy expensive produce.

  • This shopping center is blight. There had to be some shady politics involved to demolish the existing houses and build this dump strip mall. They should relocate basic community retail to the Fort Totten development, demolish this strip, and build new housing.

    We have every right to hold these establishments accountable. What angers me is that decent, trustworthy retailers have to compete against these jokers who can undercut them on price by taking shortcuts that risk public health. And when a line of people with food poisoning appears at the hospital, we’re the ones who pay. Sadly, the disreputable retailers are defended by interest groups against “big government” and made to look the victim. Actually, its local business that loses when competent businessmen are tossed out of the market by thieves and swindlers left to their own. Finally, mice are a problem, they carry disease, filth, etc. But, they are so difficult to keep out of a large store that moves a lot of product. I don’t want to see evidence of mice, but if I happen to see evidence, I’ll notify a manager. I have to see repeat offenses before I condemn a store and cease shopping there.

  • I think the City Vista Safeway seems to really need more staff. Sometimes there is no one working in the produce section when I am there, and if they are there they are super busy putting out more produce since they serve so many customers. Whole Foods seems to have more staff actually putting product out, and also taking the time to make it look visually intriguing and making sure the bad produce is taken away.

    When I first moved here I visited the Safeway on Georgia near Walter Reed. That store is really dirty. Their conveyor belts at the checkout line are consistently wet…not somewhere I want to put my food down!

    HT has been very consistent and their staff is usually very helpful.

    To the OP, I understand your frustration. Those people in your neighborhood that have no other option could eventually get very sick from the problems this store has.
    Unfortunately, IMO, many people in DC seem so complacent when it comes to customer service. Or, do people actually complain and businesses just do not do anything because they know with so many people living here, they will still make money regardless?

    • saf

      “When I first moved here I visited the Safeway on Georgia near Walter Reed. That store is really dirty.’

      That store is less than 20 years old, and was touted as a flagship store when it was built. This is how Safeway is.

  • The grocery store pictured above is about 3 blocks from my house. I never buy meat there and the store has a terrible smell to it. ALWAYS check every item for the real expiration date and other packing issues. This place is so sketchy, seriously. Half the fresh veggies are half rotten. I only go if I need something and don’t have time to get a real grocery store.

  • I’ve gotta say that I have shopped at the City Vista Safeway since it first opened, though I go less and less often these days. It has been clear from Day 1 that although the store is nice and new that the majority of the employees have the typical DC attitude and level of competency that you tend to see in many retail establishments around here. Even with a shiny new store, cleanliness will rapidly become an issue if you don’t have a large number of employees working hard to keep it clean. I can’t say that this revelation surprises me.

  • I’ve been pretty disappointed by the general grocery situation in DC…and this isn’t only about the local, questionable markets. I’ve even run into repeated problems at the Whole Foods in Friendship Heights (moldy cheese and pita bread, rotten spring mix, and a manager who promised help and never delivered). I find the produce at Yes! to be average at best (and sometimes way below). I’ve been horrified by the offerings at some of the major stores – asparagus I bought at the Giant in Columbia Heights was rotten, something I discovered when I got it home and couldn’t figure out where the stink in my kitchen was coming from.

    I really wish they’d open another Trader Joe’s that was a little more convenient . At least I feel like there’s some consistency there.

  • Laughter at the second submitter’s indingation about having to shop without her precious starbucks, these are serious issues that should be not only reported to DOH, but to the Safeway corporate offices as well. Not sure what you can do about a small independent grocery though.

    On a related note, I worked in an independent grocery years ago, doing produce and whatnot, and believe me, sometimes it is very difficult to keep up, especially in the winter when a lot of items are already being shipped so far to get to your store. Those nectarines, where do they come from this time of year? Likely overseas. Therefore, I tend to give the produce department the benefit of the doubt. I also try to buy local fresh items too, which don’t include things like nectarines in the winter.

  • I found a re-dated package once at the Giant in Columbia Heights, but am generally quite pleased with the quality of what I buy. I also shop at a local bodega pretty regularly. When I do that, I check carefully and generally only get what I will be preparing that day (fajita meat, cheap cilantro and limes, etc.) A neighbor who often shops at Whole Foods is a big fan of the bodega’s fish market, which smells but usually has decently fresh fish. I would miss the bodega if it closed, I just am cautious.

  • To the person wrote about the Avenue Supermarket and anyone who lives in that neighborhood, I know it seems really convenient, and it is, because it’s a trek to get to the next closest grocery store, but just stop going there. Forget about the whole “support local small business” line if there’s a real and obvious threat to food safety.

  • I’ve never been to the Petworth Safeway only because I’ve heard plenty of horror stories. I live near the GA Ave/Piney Branch Safeway and go there. I’ve never really had any problems there. I have always felt what little produce I buy from there (I usually get my veg from farmers markets) is of a good quality. I’ve never really bothered to buy meat or poultry there and if I do, it’s the packaged stuff and I immediately freeze it, though I think the milk could be a bit colder.

  • I just commented (in the new Petworth Safeway thread) on the rotting produce problem that all of these new huge grocery stores in transitional neighborhoods struggle with. It is inevitable – there is simply not enough volume of people buying expensive produce to turn it over in such a large store as quickly as it needs to be. Therefore the city vista safeway and constitution square harris teeter are inevitably going to be full of rotten produce and other expired perishables. It’s not the staff’s fault – they simply do not have the foot traffic to turn over that huge of a stack of nectarines. Get your produce at Whole Foods, which does have the foot traffic to do so.

    • Are you serious? It’s not the staff’s (or managements) fault? Its our fault because we don’t buy enough expensive produce?

      • You could argue that it is the management’s fault for having such a huge produce section. There is simply not enough demand for the new grocery stores to support the volume of perishables they stock. Produce on display needs to be turning over every day or so or it is going to rot on the shelf.

        It’s not an easy issue. These stores clearly see massive produce sections as necessary selling points to attract customers, but there simply are not enough customers to turn their inventory quickly enough.

        • Eric, you have repeatedly put down the Harris Teeter at Constitution Square on PoP. I’m not sure why. I’ve been there at least 15, maybe 25, times since it opened and I have never seen anything out of the ordinary.

          The prices are inline with competition, the produce is always fresh, the employees are helpful and friendly, expiration dates are always in the future, and it is clean and neat. I think you might have seen some rotten produce at some point, but this does indeed happen at all grocery stores. An isolated case here or there is not indicative of much.

          If the staff finds the produce and removes it, then what is the problem? Every time I have been to the produce section it has had at least 1 staffer restocking and removing old stuff.

          As for foot traffic, I have witnessed huge crowds nearly every time I’ve been to the City Vista Safeway during peak times. I’ve also seen a huge increase in traffic at Harris Teeter in the last 2 weeks.

          That said, I have had nothing but problems with the rude City Vista Safeway employees. It is often cluttered, crowded, and staff who dont care, or arent present. I’ve never seen any unsanitary conditions, but I have only been there a handful of times – and everything has felt stale.

          In general, I think you are jumping to way too many conclusions. I am a very perceptive person and spend time looking at details and I have not had the same experiences as you.

          With two completely divergent sets of observations, I would hope you would rethink being quite so critical and maybe give the place the benefit of the doubt.

          I have had very poor experiences in nearly every grocery chain, including Trader Joes (actually my worst ever was at Trader Joes, when items were rotten less than 24 hrs after buying and the management didn’t care at all). The only exceptions have been Whole Foods and Harris Teeter. The worst I’ve faced at either are problems finding things in stock.

          Regarding access to quality food across the city, its true – there is a big problem. These local corner stores and indy supermarkets are cutting corners and endangering health. Its not just isolated to a few, its chronic and its gross.

          Anyone who is ignorant enough to tell someone to take a bus, or plan ahead better, or something similar, thats just plain wrong. It doesnt make any sense.

          • agree that whole foods and HT are better than the others. I personally think the HT in Constitution Square is the best in the area so far and do all my shopping there except produce which I buy at Whole Foods. Take a close look at the produce in the Constitution Square HT next time you are in there and you will see what I mean, I hate to say.

            I do think, though, that when the problem afflicts almost every grocery store in the city you can’t really lay blame at the feet of “management” or the workers. I think the managers at these stores are caught in an impossible situation of needing to manage cost and quality alongside the apparent marketing need to have massive produce sections filled with exotic produce.

          • Safeway was historically the worst chain in the area and Giant was great. It wasnt until 10 years ago that they tried to rebrand themselves. However, their true colors are beginning to show through in a big way. Harris Teeter is far better managed, has nicer people, and will eventually mop up.

            Giant is trying to get their act together, but they allowed 20+ years to pass without updating their stores or focusing on the changing tastes of the consumer…

          • Eric in Ledroit, your theory still doesn’t make much sense. Even if stocking a large produce section was a necessary part of marketing, by that logic, it would also be as necessary to weed out any rotting produce as that too would turn customers away. So, you blame the business model and the lack of foot traffic to turn over the produce section. It’s called inventory and quality control, dude. Management should require workers not just to stock, but periodically check for the freshness of the goods displayed. THAT is management’s responsibility.

            Wong Tong out.

    • While I agree a bit about your theory of lack of demand for such products, I personally think the nectarines photo is more someone not doing their job. I worked at a grocery store through college and the picture of the nectarines clearly looks to me like an employee not doing his job properly. You’re supposed to rotate produce. That means taking down old stuff, put the new stuff on the bottom and then put the older fruit on top. Someone was a bit lazy and just piled on the new stuff on top thus leading to the older fruit below to rot…

    • Pick up one of those nectarines some time — it’ll be so hard you could throw it through a window. If you do buy it and take it home it will sit there like that for a week, then for a 36 hour window it will be soft but mealy and disgusting inside, and then it will be rotten. People aren’t buying this food because it’s inedible, it has nothing to do with economic circumstances. This isn’t just a city problem, I used to work in the suburbs and the fruit is just as bad at the safeways there.

    • I haven’t seen this problem at all at the Constitution Square Harris Teeter. The produce section is generally understocked when I’m there, but I haven’t seen rotting product. The store in general and that section are actually always pretty crowded; I think the proximity to the Metro helps increase the number of people who live in other nearby neighborhoods and use this as their primary grocery store.

      • give it time – it is still new.

        compare the density of customers to the size of the produce section at the HT in Admo to either of the 2 new gentrified groceries.

        • So you havent actually seen rotting produce either, your advice is to give it time because you know it will develop? huh? what’s with your vendetta against Harris Teeter.

          • Actually I have seen it. I don’t have a vendetta against HT at all. I am, however, through giving the City Vista safeway any further second chances.

  • Honestly, the Columbia Heights Giant is really the worst. Beyond what you experienced with the repackaging, the customer service is so insanely poor (on average) that I won’t go there for anything. UNIONS KILL!!!!

    HT in Adams Morgan is the best by far.

    • You’re right, clearly unions are the problem.

      Not the fact that it’s the most insanely busy store I’ve ever seen and there’s not enough staff or space to keep up with demand.

      Obviously mandated raises, breaks and benefits are causing the problem.

      Find a new excuse, jerk.

      • Not that I’m opposed to grocery store workers receiving as close to a “living wage” as possible, but you don’t see the economic connection between mandated raises, breaks and benefits with poor customer service? More money mandated to take care of existing employees = less money to meet the customer demand.

        Of course, this isn’t the only factor driving the poor customer service. Grocery stores in areas highly populated by singles and couples without children tend to be more crowded because this demographic goes to the store more often in short hops, rather than going once a week for a large order like families do.

        This is why I’m glad to live in Hill East where there are more families than singles…the Harris Teeter and Safeway out here rarely have the problems people experience in CH, Logan, etc, at least in my experience.

        • “More money mandated to take care of existing employees = less money to meet the customer demand.”

          Riiiiiiiiiiiiiight. Because it’s not like they ever sweat labor in order to extract maximum profit for executive salaries and bonuses. Yes, the rank-and-file are always to blame. It’s just a zero sum game between workers and consumers — the power elites somehow are never part of that game.

          • Safeway’s CEO was paid $1.4M last year. That’s really not a ton of money to run a company that makes $10B a year. Grocery executives are not making out like wall street bankers. Grocery stores generally operate on razor thin margins.

          • I wasn’t blaming the rank and file. I clearly insinuated that I support workers getting as close to a living wage as possible. However, it actually IS very close to a zero-sum game in many cases, especially in industries that have a lot of competition and have already lower profit margins than others. If you support the living wage standards, sometimes you have to put up with a lack of staff because of it.

        • Sorry, that’s just straight up ignorance. Harris Teeter employees make a couple bucks more an hour than Giant employees. That’s why there’s a difference in service. Harris pays more, and poaches all the good employees from Giant and Safeway.

          Giant employees are not forced to join the union when they are hired. In other words, it’s an extremely weak union. There are a lot of facts you’re not even dimly aware of here. Your argument is more of an aphorism than an explored line of reasoning.

          Yes, if employees were paid less, or if CEOs were paid less THEN the store would be paying out less. But that doesn’t mean that their margins would be improved. That’s the major fallacy you’re embracing here.

          There isn’t a 1 to 1 correspondence between what you pay someone and their performance. I guarantee once you cross the threshold of a living wage, productivity rises explosively. The optimal amount of dollars employers should pay their hires to achieve maximum output maps out as a jagged curve, rather than a straight line. For a company to receive an optimal return, paying the lowest possible wage is not the answer.

        • What exactly makes a “living wage” possible? And what exactly does it cover? Does one get to “eat” or take “medicine?” Wear “shoes,” live in a “house” or have “heat” in the winter?

    • my experience isn’t the same. i think the CH giant is a pretty darn good grocery store. the employees are generally really nice and helpful, at least in my experience.

    • Safeway is union as well, what’s your point?

  • The Yes Organic Market in Brookland always has sausages and such without dates on them, and they always have some sort of produce item that is withered or sitting in a pool of slime. My favorite was a few weeks ago, they had bulbs of fennel “on special” for something crazy like $2.99 for a single bulb. Every single bulb was brown and slimy! Ha. And I’ve bought bulk rice that was crawling with larvae when I got home, and bulk oats that had rodent turds in it. Buyers, beware! Yet, I do love Yes – especially the one in Petworth – because it looks so clean, never any lines and the people who work there are so very nice. But I always warn people to shop carefully there.

    • I went to the new Yes the day after they opened. The juice boxes I bought my kids had expired. How they stocked a new store with old, shelf-stable juice boxes that probably have a life of a few years is beyond me.

      I don’t begrudge mice nibbling in a grocery store, but changing the expiration dates is just criminal.

  • Everyone has a camera phone; take a picture and post it. PoP can do a weekly roundup of nasty grocery stores.

  • I stick to Harris Teeter in Admo. Even though I have some complaints with it, I have never come across moldy food, or rodent infested packages. On the contrary, this summer was at Sandinista Safeway on Columbia and picked up a loaf of bread from a lower shelf.

    I saw some crumbs on the shelf after I picked up the bag.. but after further inspection, I saw something gray in the bag.. Of course, it was a mouse, and after loudly stating what was in the bag I held, multiple workers ran away screaming and did nothing. Finally a very nice worker who was actually just a janitor of some sort, took care of it. I have not been back since.

  • To the brave “anonymous”: public transit is amazing only for the few blocks around any given metro One look at a map and one will see vast swaths of geography not easily accessible to most neighborhoods. Buses? Sure. But round tripping a run via bus could take several hours depending on wait times, distance, and if you need two routes. I can choose to shop in NYC. Don’t mean I will. Swallow the smugness until you’re in their shoes.

    • So what if a grocery shop takes 4 hours? You decided to live in one of the most accessible cities on the planet. No one made you move here and locate where you did. You’re not stuck in some mountain town in the Appalachians where the nearest grocery store is going to cost you $50 in gas to get there. You can take a cab if you don’t like the bus. If it costs you $20 round trip, then buy in bulk. If you’ve moved here from elsewhere and you can’t afford to grocery shop, then you really can’t afford to live in the city. Take your class indignancy and shove it.

      Don’t be so helpless because you can’t be bothered to stock up.

      • And for all the people who didn’t move here? Or for the single parents? Or the people who work 2 jobs? Or the people on a tight budget? Or the elderly and disabled? What about them? It’s better to blame people for expecting their neighborhood store to be safe then to hold a business accountable? We live in a city, we should have reasonable and safe options for everyone, not just the people who can afford and have the time to shop at Whole Foods and the Dupont farmers market.

        • The prices and quality of “food” of these places, and bullet proof carryouts would drive me to got on a bus and go elsewhere. Clearly the single parents and elderly arent voting for the type of people who nurture or partner with the type of businesses who can indeed ensure “safe” retail. Status quo in these neighborhoods isn’t the result of yuppie oppression. It’s years of local practice…

  • me

    Those stories suck, and I don’t want my comment to detract from them.

    I just wanted to say that eggs being stored at room temperature is actually the norm in the UK and other parts of Europe. I was quite surprised when I lived there to see all of the eggs unrefrigerated.

    But the rest of the stuff mentioned is disgusting.

    • But it’s not the norm here. I imagine that their selling warm eggs is laziness/lack of caring, rather than trying to be more European.

      • Wrong, eggs are perfectly OK at room temperature, as long as they STAY at room temperature from their inital laying to the time they get cooked, and are consumed in a reasonable amount of time.

  • I haven’t had any problems at harris teeter. So far. I know its a pain to get to the one in AM though. Giant and SAfeway know they have captive, low income shoppers without much transit access and they exploit that. There really should be a blog devoted to photos of this crap that people can post to daily if necessary.

  • The insinuation of disapointment and frustration about having to shop “empty handed” because Starbucks wasn’t serving/working just made me laugh a little. No offense.

  • wow. you guys are so mean to each other.

    also–Jen is right, eggs do not need to be refrigerated. Unless American egg suppliers put some weird chemical/GMO in eggs that needs to be kept cool…

    Support farmers’ markets!

    • Eggs come into the store refridgerated. Once eggs have been refridgerated, they need to remain refridgerated. If they left the farm and the processing plant un-refidgerated, then they are fine, but in this country this is never the case.

      Go to any other country however, and you get eggs right off the shelf next to the rice and beans 🙂

  • There really are two separate issues with the two stories:

    (1) The bodega is independently owned, I’m guessing. Now that it is in flagrant violation of the health code (and if it wasn’t flagrant before it was cited 25 times, it certainly is now) and is just back up to its old tricks. Fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me. It should be reported again to DOH, and anybody with a vested interest in that neighborhood should stay on DOH until the place is shut down or fined so much that it is forced to either close or change its ways. There is no rule that says a small store like that can’t/doesn’t have to comply with the rules. Understanding that certain parts of DC remain food deserts, it still doesn’t help the residents of that neighborhood to have the option of possibly poisoning themselves or starving. That has to change, and the store isn’t going to do it on its own.

    (2) The Safeway is corporately owned. I would imagine a quick letter (hell, just forward this picture and post) to corporate customer service, copying the general counsel’s office and the store’s manager, will make heads roll there, and you could see instant improvement from a basic complaint. (Not to say that it can’t also be reported to DOH, but that’s less likely to quickly resolve issues of sanitation.)

    • BTW the first thing OP did was open up a case with the department of health. This is his second time doing so with the same location.

    • saf

      “The Safeway is corporately owned. I would imagine a quick letter (hell, just forward this picture and post) to corporate customer service, copying the general counsel’s office and the store’s manager, will make heads roll there, and you could see instant improvement from a basic complaint”

      You have no experience with Safeway, right? This will do nothing. You may get a “Oh, sorry,” letter back, perhaps with some gift cards. That’s all, and really not all that likely.

      • No, I don’t have experience with Safeway, but I’m telling you: copy the general counsel. There’s at least two big risks that any dolt in legal can see out of the box here: (1) potential lawsuit for selling food that makes people sick and (2) DOH comes in with fines or worse. It is their job to make sure that doesn’t happen, or if it does, to deal with the problem. Often, getting these complaints to the right people is 90% of the battle. And customer service or store management won’t screw around if they know that this has landed on the GC’s desk.

  • I live near that NH ave shithole and go there fairly. But only to buy non-perishables. Soda. Juice. Beer.

    I head up to the Silver Spring Giant for any food I would actually want to eat.

  • Sadly stuff like this is fairly common, even for the more heavily staffed, ‘up-market’ stores. As an example see this:

    Essentially the P St. Whole Foods had their reach-in meat cooler and walk-in deli cooler at temperatures far warmer than allowed, creating a serious risk of spoilage, bacterial growth etc. From the ‘food removed’ note on the report, I’m confident that they were forced to throw out all that food, but who knows how long that went on and how much meat was purchased prior to the inspection.

    In addition, I’d note that there are >4700 food establishments that DC Gov’t is responsible for inspecting and 17 inspectors to do so. So 276 establishments apiece.

    Keep the valid complaints rolling in and it can only help the inspectors focus where it’s needed.

  • OMG, you had to shop “empty-handed”? Outrageous!

    You spend $100 per week there and they have the nerve to treat you like that?? Outrageous!

    You were disgusted *and* frustrated??? Outrageous!

    Actually, both of these sound like pretty nasty shopping experiences, so I hate to make light of either of them. But I really hate letters written in the style of the second one – just tell us the relevant facts, please, not how much you spend or how it made you feel. Or that you had to do your grocery shopping without a grande-mocha-frappe-latte-cino.

  • I think the neighbors in the first instance should continue to report them in hopes they either do better or are shut down.

    But…you *can* use Peapod or Safeway delivery. So can the elderly neighbors, which eliminates the need to go to this shop OR struggle to find transportation to/from the neighborhood store for groceries. I imagine the only reason that store is cheaper (if it is) is likely because they are cutting the corners like you describe. If you and your neighbors patronize Peapod or whatever, ideally business would decline at that store and they would do better to attract you back or go out of business.

    • I’m also surprised that people would rather complain and insult the OP than the people that are CAUSING the problem.

      I’m sure it’s very easy for most of y’all to get to a decent grocery store. Really. And that’s supernice for you.

      But people that are on a really low income with very limited time? Sorry, but it’s not always so possible, even if they were able to “stock up” – hauling all that stuff home isn’t easy.

      And? Suggesting they spend $20 to cab it home or have food delivered. Peapod has a $60 minimum order and, if I recall correctly, a delivery fee. Again, not so easy on a fixed or low income. $60 is more than my usual weekly grocery bill.

      I’m surprised we tell people to shut up and accept the problem than to find a solution that benefits the local community.

      • Not to mention that some elderly and low income people don’t have access to internet. I know my grandparents would never have been able to figure out how to order food online.

        • Mine haven’t either. In fact, my Grandmother who lives outside of Philadelphia technically “has access” to nearby grocery stores via public transportation and has computers in her building, so if you listen to some of these people, she should be just fine.

          My grandmother is also ninety years, off and on infirm, and while she may be able to walk a few blocks to one, there is NO WAY she can get on a bus and get there, particularly when she has trouble with stairs as it is, and cannot figure out the internet. I’ve been able to solve the problem in the past by having things delivered via the internet, but if she didn’t have family looking out, then what?

          I see no reason not to call out a filthy business on being a filthy business, or to tell people to suck it up and deal with something that’s such a flagrant violation. Having lived here my whole life, I can’t understand how people don’t consider these things to be an outrage.

      • I didn’t insult or attack anyone. I did, however, offer an alternative to using that store that might actually cover some of the unmet need — people need groceries, there is no place else to shop in the neighborhood, elderly folks might not be able to navigate getting all around town with lots of groceries — while also hitting the store where it hurts in hopes they would clean up their act to attract those customers back to the store OR close altogether making room for a business that doesn’t engage in these practices.

        However, I didn’t think about the min. cost or the Internet issue in regard to the elderly (I guess my Grandma IMing me is the exception rather than the norm), so thank you for pointing out those flaws in my “plan.”

        • Sorry if you feel like people jumped on you, you made a proactive suggestion, which at least contributes to the conversation. I think people are more reacting to the comments made by others that elderly people don’t need help b/c they have family/options.

          • What Kate said. It wasn’t only you, there were a lot of people who suggested folks just go to the grocery store X-miles away that was betetr. I was just trying to say that’s not always as simple of an option for some folks as it is for others.

            And as far as your Grandma IMing you, my 94 year old Grandfather has discovered facebook (other side of the family). Except he hasn’t quite, so he keeps trying to send us private messages on our walls in all caps.

  • I shop exclusively at Murrays for it’s fine selection of frozen fried fishes and chitterling products.

  • i didn’t make any comment about unions in this thread except to point out that Harris Teeter is not unionized. Didn’t make any particular judgment about them. In fact, I used to be a member of UFCW local 400, the union in question. Thanks.

    And “greedy management” in a grocery store typically presides over profits of 3-5%, which are some of the lowest in any industry. No one’s raking in the dollars in the retail grocery business – well, except for Whole Foods.

  • Harris Teeter on the Hill — 13th & Penn SE — is always clean and well-stocked. That store gets very busy — especially on Sundays — but the biggest problem I’ve encountered is finding a parking spot in the garage.

  • I used to shop at the City Vista Safeway regularly before I moved to a different part of the District. They consistently left rotten and seriously-bruised produce on the shelves. And has anyone else noticed that Lucerne milk (Safeway’s brand) always goes bad before the sell-by date?

  • Wow, last week I was complaining how my local Harris Teeter overcharges for Brussels sprouts and stopped carrying my favorite brand of bacon. I guess I should shut up and count myself lucky!

  • It’s official. PoP ruined dinner.

    Relabeling is a major issue everywhere and due to cost pressures, it wouldn’t surprise me if many small, independent grocers in the area still did it. Definitely use common sense when purchasing meat products and stay away from “manager’s special” unless you like “fragrant meat.”

  • It’s a known problem that there is a lack of fresh, quality food available in inner-city areas. It’s a lot worse in lower-income areas that can’t support a Whole Foods. Yes, we have the choice to shop somewhere else. But the operators of the grocery store do not have the choice of providing food that can be harmful: it is against the law. Everyone should have access to resources as base as fresh, safe food.

    • do you think it’s possible that just maybe the problem is that there isn’t a market for fresh produce in these areas? Or is this strictly caused by greedy “executives” that hate the inner city?

  • The Avenue is never going to change. It’s been a ‘fixture’ as long as I can remember. As a kid we called it the stinky store. I would never buy meat from them but thought the fruit was safe till two days ago. bought some grapes and came home to find an advanced civilization growing under them. Disgusting.

  • Imagine what would happen to the whole area if you supplanted that liquor store and bodega with some legitimate establishments… What the place really needs is a coffee shop or bakery and a small but extremely clean grocer or butcher…

  • I haven’t read all 109 comments, but if the original poster wants to report the New Hampshire Avenue market for SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) benefits fraud, the number for the D.C. SNAP program is (per and 202-724-5506.

Comments are closed.