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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?

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