1. More than just a wet floor

black and while tile floor
Joe Shlabotnik / Flickr
Time for new flooring.

I was a health inspector long ago. Was at a Golden Corral, going through the kitchen area.

As I was squatting down to check a dishwasher, my foot broke through the tile floor and into a sewer pipe that ran underneath.

Cockroaches come boiling out of the hole. Turns out the entire floor was rotten from a water leak in the sewer pipe.

Best (worst) part? The general manager tried to fight me when I told them they had to close down until they fixed the open hole into a pipe full of cockroaches and waste.


2. A souper inspection

Pots of soup
Timur Saglambilek / Pexels
Rethinking daily soup specials.

My dad used to be a health inspector and one story stands out.

Once while he was inspecting a Chinese restaurant, he saw a pail sitting on the floor filled with a green substance and asked what it was.

They told him, “Soup of the day.”

He asked what was in it and was told it was scraps. The bucket was never emptied, it turned out.

The scraps going in roughly equaled the soup going out, which meant that there was stuff in there that had been there for weeks at room temp, on the floor.

Dad had them dump it as he looked on.


3. The bakery kneaded an improvement

Baskets full of loaves of bread
Daria Shevstova / Pexels
The bread tasted like grass.

My stepdad used to be a baker in an authentic recreation of an 18th century New French fortress.

Because they sell bread to the public, the health inspector came by, and she was ripping into my stepdad for violations like the stonework walls, the doorless entrance ways, or the lack of a mosquito zapper.

He pointed out that they were following the highest standards except for things that would destroy the authenticity of this 18th-century bakery.

The health inspector relented and agreed to give him a pass after verifying the food storage area was secure.

They went to the shed, which was a doorless building attached to the bakery. As the health inspector went in, there happened to be an escaped cow licking all of the loaves.

My stepdad could only say, "Honestly, this never happens."


4. They need a new recipe right meow

Tuna sandwich on a wooden board
Youjeen Cho / Unsplash
Secret ingredient to the tuna melt.

I’m not a health inspector, but my husband was one. Here is my favorite story that’s he’s told me so far.

He once did an inspection in a southern style place.

While inspecting the fridge, he noticed there was a container of cat food in there. Whiskas cat food.

He was preparing to talk to the owner about not feeding strays, but instead, she began talking about how she got a good deal on a pallet of Whiskas and how no one could tell the difference.

Yeah, she was using it in the tuna melt sandwich. The worst part was that the place was known for its tuna melt.


5. It was shrimply not a good inspection

Shrimp on ice
Arina Ertman / Unsplash
the five second rule doesn't apply.

I used to be a health inspector and once while I was inspecting a Chinese buffet, I noted to the employees that there were tubs of frozen, fried shrimp stacked on top of one another without covers.

They needed to discard the top layers of the food and put on the tub lids to keep the food safe from contamination.

As they scrambled to remove the top layer, they knocked over the tower of shrimp, spilling it all over the floor.

As I was standing there, they hurriedly started scooping the shrimp up and put them back into the tubs.

I’m standing right here you guys!


6. Home for the roaches

Abandoned restaurant
Nicolas Hoizey / Unsplash
This restaurant needed to be shut down.

I did commercial pest control for about 1.5 years.

Worst I saw in a restaurant was a kitchen so filthy that there was a two inches thick film on the floors, under all the equipment, that was just rotten food that had decomposed into a black sludge.

Cockroaches were everywhere. Like falling out of the corners of the front door in the soda machine, in the ice machine.

They had pieces of stainless steel screwed into the walls that the roaches were living behind and every time I treated back there thousands would run out.

So many you could hear them.

The wall between the kitchen and the dining area was so wet and moldy that slugs were reproducing and would slime their way across customers’ tables. The bar was just as bad.


7. Too greasy

Greasy food
Zera Li / Unsplash
Not enough ventilation.

I'm a fairly new health inspector, but I did see a hot-hold bar in a Bojangles.

Someone had the idea to close off the cabinet part underneath by sealing the door. This prevented any cleaning under the hot-hold wells.

I just happen to glance in there when an employee lifted up of the containers. There was a black "mass" of food debris and grease.

It didn't warrant an immediate revocation of their permit, but I did go back on a 10-day verification visit.

I also saw the manager of a different Bojangles in town step on a few roaches in the kitchen. He thought I didn't see him but I totally did.


8. What a ratty market

Empty grocery store aisle
Fikri Rasyid / Unsplash
Don't walk down that aisle.

I once got a call to go to a market. It seems the feds were there investigating EBT fraud.

While doing investigations they saw the market had caught a live rat in a cage-type trap and had left it in the middle of one of the aisles.

You might think that since the operator knew I was on my way that he might be motivated to remove the rat from the premises.

Of course, he didn't. And when I got there, I saw Mr. Whiskers chilling out in his cage.

In addition to the rat, I find droppings everywhere.

Floors, shelves, counters, cooking equipment...you name it.


9. He was just chicken in on the truck

Semi truck on highway
VaneenJF / Unsplash
Smelled like raw chicken for days.

My friend’s dad was a health inspector.

Part of his job was to check on the condition of the vehicles and to ensure food was being transported safely.

There was a problem and he was called to verify that the food inside was safe for consumption and to determine the correct origin and destination, etc.

When he started to inspect the vehicle he noticed that it was leaking a lot of water, so he guessed the refrigeration on the truck might not be working correctly.

He had to open the back and take a temperature reading to see if the food was going to need to be disposed of. When he opened the back of the truck tons of slimy, smelly, raw chicken fell off a food rack on top of him.

It had not been tied down correctly and it was a hot summer day. The refrigeration hadn’t been working for quite some time and nothing was to code.


10. Chill out

Restaurant Kitchen storage
Wonderlane / Flickr
Don't serve warm food.

I work in food safety and I’ve definitely seen it all.

Probably the worst was seeing a restaurant employee attempting to separate raw frozen chicken breasts with a rusty crowbar and hammer. I had to make a few phone calls for that one.

I’ve also been to a franchise of a large restaurant chain that had no actively working coolers in the entire facility and they weren’t actively doing anything to resolve the problem.

I checked their temperature logs and quickly realized they’d been holding and serving un-refrigerated food for about three days straight.


11. Clueless hospital

Hospital reception desk
Martha Dominguez de Gouveia / Unsplash
They weren't sure they had mice.

Former Inspector here. I once discovered a rat infestation in the kitchen of a hospital.

They asked me if I could prove my "suspicions." I pointed out the numerous foodstuffs with one to two-inch circular holes chewed in them, but they didn't seem convinced.

I showed them the trail of droppings and footprints coming and going from a hole in the floor drain, but they didn't seem convinced.

I showed them the three dead rats I had discovered under and around equipment.

I think they began to believe me at that point. Citations included rat infestation and absolutely deplorable cleaning practices


12. That milk is spoiled

Jugs of milk
Mehrshad Rajabi / Unsplash
Bleach isn't edible.

Used to have a job working as an inspector for storage tanks at places like dairies and factories.

I went to a Cheesecake Factory once to test a milk storage tank. It had just been cleaned and was being prepped to be filled with a tanker full of milk.

I noticed the floor of the tank was covered in bleach. It turned out, the floor manager couldn't be bothered to spend the time sucking out the rest of the cleaning fluid used in the cleaning process.

Found out he just filled the tank with milk on top of a dozen gallons of bleach.

His theory was that there was enough milk to dilute the bleach to acceptable consumption levels.

I wrote a report and he was promptly fired.


13. Hard to ham-dle

Sliced ham roast
sorel_67 / Unsplash
He couldn't hold the ham.

Did food safety inspection at a large slaughterhouse.

One of the workers who was running service for the butchers had dropped a ham on the floor.

The proper way to handle this for him was to leave it there and call for a re-inspector to pick it up, take it out to carve off any contaminated bits and rinse it in boiling water.

First, he tried catching it as it fell. He didn't catch it though and it landed on the floor.

Thinking that no one was watching, he tried picking it up, and dropped it again. He did this three times.

He then, out of pure frustration at the unwieldy ham, dropped down on all fours, and proceeded to pick up the raw, freshly cut, 13 lb ham — with his teeth.

Stood up, ham dangling from his chompers, dropped it into the tub with around 1300 lbs of product and drove off with the tub for processing.


14. Cleaning cockroaches

Old dishwasher
Denny Muller / Unsplash
The dishes weren't clean.

My Dad was one, is now retired.

He noted the trays at a Chinese restaurant weren't clean or warm. When he asked the employees, they acknowledged the heating element had failed, but that there was still a chemical backup.

Somehow, though, it wasn't hitting the dishes.

Then he saw a cockroach crawl out of the washer. Attempting to understand how the dishes were not getting rinsed, he found that it was backed up with cockroaches.

They were 'cleaning' the trays. They 'closed for remodeling' for 3 days, but it was really cleaning up in order to pass inspection before they were allowed to open again.


15. That’s a shellfish restaurant

Lobsters sitting on ice
Louis Hasel / Unsplash
People only want fresh lobster.

My stepmother is the lead health inspector for a decent sized suburban town.

A truck full of lobsters was traveling down the highway and crashed. The police came, and eventually, they towed the truck.

As a member of the board, my stepmother was consulted to see if any of the lobsters were viable and she told them they weren’t.

The road is a total loss since there were literally lobsters scattered across the highway covered in dirt and sand.

Fast forward 24 hours and one of the restaurants in town ran a special: twin lobsters for $19.99!

Apparently, the owner of the trucking/towing company knew the restaurant owner pretty well so they made a deal whereby the restaurant would pay a very discounted price for the 'road lobsters.’

The restaurant would turn around and illegally serve the lobsters to unsuspecting customers or sell them out of a truck behind behind the restaurant.


16. They didn’t have very mice food

Shipment of bags
Wonderlane / Unsplash
They didn't order mice.

Health inspector here. I went for a routine inspection at a cafe/restaurant.

I went into the walk-in box to check food temps and to verify the food is properly separated etc.

I noticed numerous mice droppings all over the food and when I started moving containers around there were mice traps throughout the refrigerator.

The owner, simply said, "Oh, mice came in a shipment of food, so we are doing our best to control it.”

I checked the baked goods on the display shelf and they were basically sprinkled in mice droppings as well. The business was closed for various days and with multiple summonses issued.


17. Basement dweller

Old basement
isaac jarnagin / Unsplash
I don't think this passes health or housing code.

I walked into a restaurant where they were adamant about us not going into the basement. I didn’t understand why, and we had to go down there to check their chest freezers.

The owner is pleading with us to not go, which was strange, and the lights were not turning on, which was starting to creep me out.

Grabbed a flashlight and started to trek downstairs. The basement was slightly flooded with rainwater in one corner, not a big deal.

I'm wondering why this woman was still acting on edge.

Turns out she has an illegal bedroom that's hidden by a cinderblock wall. Nobody was there but there was an air mattress, a spackle bucket, and a few other personal belongings.


18. The restaurant needed a good cleaning

Dirty pots and pans in sink
Scott Umstattd / Unsplash
Too dirty to serve food.

I remodeled a Chinese restaurant and I've never seen anything like the kitchen in this place.

There was so much grease everywhere that the roaches got stuck in it and died. The leak behind the dish wash sink had leaked so long that I had to replace the framing in the wall, because there was mold and rot everywhere.

They left three five-gallon buckets of what appeared to be used motor oil. Turns out that it was the oil from the woks when they moved. The wok stove was so greasy we couldn't get a grip to move it.

The absolute worst was when the exhaust vent cleaners came. They steamed the ducts and enormous piles of what looked like brown jello fell onto plastic they put on the floor, probably 300 lbs of this stuff or more.


19. He didn’t understand

Raw steaks
Changyoug Koh / Unsplash
Raw meat needs to be refridgerated.

No longer one, but I once visited a restaurant/events venue a couple of years ago as a health inspector.

Being an old guy's family business, he didn't care about upgrading his services and he was running his business on autopilot.

Anyway, his meat fridges were turned off during the inspection, at noon and it was over 95 degrees F outside.

When I asked him to explain, he had the solid reasoning of, "I only work in the evenings and weekends, why would I keep the fridge running during the day?"

Not sure, but if I pushed the case a bit I could have him suspended for attempted mass poisoning.


20. He’s seen everything

Interior of a restaurant
Kaboompics.com / Unsplash
What else could he come across?

The following are several things I've seen fairly recently at different places.

A vent hood so dirty and clogged that grease was dripping into the food. Moldy food on the cook line about to be served.

A dead cockroach in the raw shrimp bucket on the cook line. When I pointed it out, the cook fished out the roach with this finger, threw it away and proceeded to throw some shrimp on the grill like nothing was wrong.

A restaurant so infested with roaches that they were crawling over the prepared food and the wait staff were just flicking them off, then bringing the plates to the customers.

I walked in to do an inspection and a guy had been living in the restaurant under a table. He had a sleeping bag, all of his life accessories, he was smoking cigarettes, eating all of his food, etc. under the prep table.


21. Not up to proper code

Liquor store
NeONBRAND / Unsplash
This liquor store needed to close down.

There was an old liquor store, which had once been the front unit of a housing duplex, had now converted into full-service deli (sandwiches, fried chicken, etc.).

They were severely lacking in all the proper space and equipment.

There was a rat infestation; droppings everywhere in the place. Mountains of old cast-off equipment in the back (giving the rats a home).

Meat defrosting on the hood of an inoperable car on the side alley.

The back unit of the duplex (now converted to food storage) had unfinished wooden boards on the floor, which were now soft and rotting from soaking up years of meat juice and everything else.


22. Ice cream for cockroaches

Ice cream
Lama Roscu / Unsplash
Soft serve isn't the way to go.

I was doing an inspection in a popular buffet chain and couldn't find any roaches, but I smelled them. I looked everywhere.

I called my buddy who was a pest control officer. He agreed to come in, grabbed a large shop vacuum and told me to move fast.

When he lifted off the back of the soft serve ice cream machine they all poured out like a waterfall and all over the floor. Luckily, we got them all cleaned up.

Soft serve ice cream machines are known to leak and typically they're not cleaned well. Hot, wet and dark is the perfect place for an infestation.


23. He was going to flip out

Steak on a grill
Emerson Vieira / Unsplash
Clean your BBQ

I was in a BBQ joint inside a casino. They told me that the place was an issue and they had washed their hands of the problems hoping they would just close shop.

Needless to say, the flies were a problem.

But the biggest concern was the prop table in the kitchen that had never been cleaned. It was a very large and stainless steel table.

The bottom of the tabletop was dripping with grease and fat from the BBQ.

No clue how it got there. Maggots were crawling all over the underside of the table.

The smell was nothing I will ever forget. This place served hundreds of people a day under gross incompetence.


24. No rats to be seen

Cats lying on the floor
Mustafa ezz / Pexels
They chose to have cats.

A tuna canning plant in Los Angeles was off of an island and the processing plant owned the entire island a few miles offshore.

Needless to say, we had to take a boat to the plant to look at some machinery they needed to be repaired.

We get to the plant and there are dozens of cats all over the island. They were inside the plant, outside the plant, warehouse, etc.

Cats everywhere!

Nobody said anything. They were even in the office building.

After a few trips, I finally asked. One guy said in a joke, "It's either rats or cats. We don't have a rat problem here."


25. That’s an unlucky kitchen

Closed sign on window
fotografierende / Pexels
They should just close down for good.

Used to be a pest control tech and worked in tandem with a health inspector in my region.

We shut down a Chinese place three times in as many years. They used to leave frozen raw meat, in sinks full of water, overnight to thaw. Mice and rats would chew on them overnight.

In the morning they would just cut off the chewed bits and serve the rest.

I constantly pulled drowned mice out of the fish, crab and lobster tanks.

There were roaches, moths, beetles and worms in everything because they stored all dried foodstuffs in open Rubbermaid bins in an attic room that wasn't sealed.

They had four kitchen fires in a decade because they never cleaned the kitchen and grease coated everything.


26. No wonder they closed

Looking inside bakery window
Davide Baraldi / Pexels
Not what I want in my pies.

The worst I saw was a bakery that had been in decline for some years.

They had older management and an old kitchen which was able to escape many of the newer regulations because it had been in constant operation for over 30 years.

Cement floors, poor ventilation and inadequate storage. They would bake the pie pastries in the morning and leave them to cool during the day.

Later the pie fillings would be added for the final bake. Problems occurred when the cockroaches climbed into the nice warm pastry bases and then had a nice blanket of pie filling added before being cooked in an oven.

We closed that place down.


27. Past expired

Expiry date
Wikimedia Commons / Public Domain
Expiration dates matter.

I used to do kitchen inspections for a while. Surprisingly, the hygiene of the staff was never that terrible and there weren’t a lot of issues with rodents, bugs or other types of health violations.

The worst thing I ever saw wasn't even a hygiene problem.

This facility had a gas stove with rubber tubing that fed the gas to the burners.

For safety reasons, these tubes all have expiration dates printed on them, after which they should be replaced to prevent gas leaks.

The ones in this stove had been expired for 20 years. I've never shut down a kitchen this quickly ever before or since.


28. Rice doesn’t move

Conveyor belt
falco / Pixabay
That's not for eating.

I had to fix a 35-foot dish conveyor at a local hipster art college.

The way that it was designed was that in order to clean it you had to remove the conveyor. This was a difficult job and was not done.

They called one day because the conveyor would not move, so I go and take hours to remove the conveyor so that it can be taken outside and pressure washed.

During this time, it smells worse and worse as it is drying out. I look and in the conveyor channel, and it looks the entire conveyor track is packed full of dirty rice.

I look a bit closer and the rice is wiggling slightly.

The entire track was full of garbage and maggots. I left as fast as possible to get the chef. I told him it was his job to clean it and got out of there.


Sources: 1, 2, 3

About the Author

Caitlin Cochrane

Caitlin Cochrane

Staff Writer

Caitlin Cochrane is a staff writer with MoneyWise, and has an educational background in human resource management and professional writing. When she is not writing, she is at home drinking tea and playing with her bunnies.

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