Health inspectors see restaurants at their very best...and their very worst, and boy, when a restaurant is bad, it's super bad. Luckily, health inspectors have strong stomachs, because these stories are almost too much to believe!
They Somehow Got 0 Out Of 5 Stars
“A friend of mine who is a Health Inspector was telling me he awarded his first 0 recently (we have a 5 star rating here). The violation? The place didn’t have a sink. Not even a lack of washing hands – just straight up didn’t have a sink.”
Wipe, Rinse, And Repeat
“My instructor once witnessed a McDonald’s employee, probably 16 or 17 years old, use a rag in the bathroom to clean the sink and anywhere else that needed wiping down. She later witnessed the employee later use the same rag to wipe down the counters in front of the cash registers; He was fired on the spot.”
That’s Not Appropriate For An Ice Cream Shop
“Not a health inspector, but worked in a restaurant where the managers were good friends with one.
The coffee/ice cream shop next door was shut down out of nowhere and we were all shocked because they were pretty busy. Health inspector came in one day and manager asked why it was shut down. Health inspector proceeded to tell my manager that he walked in unannounced early one morning before the shop opened, only to find the owner jerking off behind the counter by the ice cream.”
He Assumed The Source Of The Hair Was The Owner…
“My uncle is a health inspector in rural Australia. He got several complaints about a fish ‘n chips shop in a small town in Victoria, with reports of it being a bit grotty and people getting chunks of hair in their hot chips.
So he came up one day, unannounced, on a blazing hot day in the middle of summer. The owner greeted him and showed him around while wearing a white tank top with sweat patches under the arms, short shorts, and no shoes. This guy’s body was covered in hair. Not just on his arms and chest, but his back and neck were like a werewolf. Clearly, this must be the source of the hair in the chips. My uncle decided to make a tactful comment about having to wear appropriate clothes when working, so as to protect against hot oil burns.
After seeing the property and giving a few basic suggestions, the only other thing he noticed that needed immediate attention was the deep fryer itself. The oil was old, filthy, and likely full of this guy’s hair, so he ordered the bloke to drain it out right then and there. The owner did so, and at the bottom of the oil vat was a dead, deep fried and crispy….cat. Totally unphased, the owner simply said, ‘Oh, that’s where my cat went!’
Turns out a few months previously, the shop was having a rodent problem, so the owner brought in a cat to catch them. He thought the cat escaped overnight and ran away. Nope. Looks like little Fluffy drowned in the deep frying oil, and Mr. Chippy had been frying him up over and over and over again ever since. The clumps of hair locals were complaining about weren’t from the half-man, half-wolf owner, but the fur and flesh of a dead cat.”
The Cream Always Rises To The Top
“Used to have a job working as an inspector for storage tanks at places like dairies and factories. Went to a literal 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 arsed to spend the time sucking out the rest of the cleaning fluid used in the cleaning process and 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.”
“I Could Have Him Suspended For Attempted Mass Poisoning”
“I once visited a restaurant as a Health Inspector. Being an old guy’s family business, he didn’t give a heck about much. His meat fridges were turned off during the inspection, at noon with over 35 C outside (learn metric, heathens) with 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.”
They’d Named The Rats And Everything!
“I’m a local health inspector in the South, and I’ve seen some crap. I will say this– on the whole, most places are pretty good. The truth is, ~90% of any sort of sickness comes from improper hot or cold holding or bad cooling methods, so violations for looking dirty are relatively minor and cost only ‘1 point’ in our system. The big violations are things that would actually get you sick. I say that because the whole point system is pretty arbitrary and I hate the whole placard thing, but I digress…
One year, I had to shut down one of those overpriced inner-city family dollar-type places over Christmas because they had this infestation of rats that was outrageous. Like the staff had named the rats and followed their growth and progress over the months. There ended up being about 70, and their names were things like Whitey and Blackey. Seriously? At least be original and socially acceptable if you’re going to ignore the major rat infestation in your store. When I got there, literally 90% of the food and pet food packaging was compromised so we had to throw it all out, and I HATE FOOD WASTE so it was a bad day. Nibbles in everything. Many rats shot out of the shelves as they started cleaning, which made me want to scream but I held it together and kept my fragile manliness intact. They were shut down for weeks while they disassembled their store, basically rebuilt everything, and completely restocked it. Merry freaking Christmas from the Health Department. I didn’t want to shut off food access to all the people in the neighborhood (I actually lived around the corner, so I knew what effect it would have), but thinking about them eating rat poo flavored Doritos for Christmas felt wrong on so many levels.”
“The Smell Was Something I Will Never Forget”
“If you see a ‘fruit fly’ in a restaurant, it’s not because ‘it’s summer and everyone has them now.’ It’s because the drains in the kitchen are not clean and the flies are breeding in the scum impacted in the drain.
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 prep table in the kitchen that had NEVER been cleaned. It was a very large and stainless steel table. The bottom of the table top 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 something I will never forget. This place served hundreds of people a day under gross incompetence.”
They Got Suspicious When There Was A Sudden Sale On Lobsters
“My stepmother is the lead health inspector for a decent sized suburban town. While I have never asked what the worst thing she has witnessed as part of her job was, I do know of one instance that was pretty gross.
A truck full of lobsters was traveling down the highway and crashed. The police came, and eventually they towed the truck. As a board health inspector, my stepmother was consulted to see if any of the lobsters were viable and she told them no, the load was a total loss since there were literally lobsters scattered across the highway covered in dirt, sand, etc.
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 the restaurant.
I’m not sure what the repercussions were, but I think they were shut down for like a week. They closed shortly thereafter and now there’s a new restaurant there. The towing company lost their contract to tow vehicles/semi trucks with the town and state.”
It’s In Your Best Interest To Skip The Soup Of The Day
“My dad was one, is now retired. Of everything I ever heard, two jump out: 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. 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. The roaches were the ones ‘cleaning’ the trays. They ‘closed for remodeling’ for three days, but it was really cleaning up in order to pass inspection before they were allowed to open again.
At a similar restaurant, he asked about a pail on the floor filled with a green substance. ‘Soup of the day,’ they told him. Dad asked what it was, 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.
A bonus story was when he caught a guy smoking in a kitchen and exposed the cigarette behind his back with a handshake.”
Even The Fire Chief Bailed
“Mom’s an inspector. My favorite one is probably the fish place that caught fire, but didn’t burn down. Turns out, public health and the fire department needed to go in to condemn the place. Mom came in with her hard hat and some bulk boots, and the fire chief was with her. The smell was horrible. Burnt, rotted fish is probably what Hades wished it could smell like. Maggots everywhere. Fire chief bailed in the first five minutes to go puke outside. Mom worked in a slaughterhouse and is metal AF, so she just mouth breathed her way through it. Then, she started hearing little plinking noises and feeling impacts on her helmet. It was freaking maggots on the ceiling falling on her. Place definitely got condemned.”
When The 5 Second Rule Doesn’t Apply
“Did food safety inspection at a large slaughterhouse for a while. We did our own inspections each shift and the government inspector stopped by once a day too.
One day, I came round a corner, and one of the workers who was running service for the butchers had dropped a ham on the floor. So, the proper way to handle this for him was to leave it there, and call for a re-inspector to come pick it up, take it out to carve off any contaminated bits and rinse it in boiling water.
Now, it happened relatively often that meat was dropped on the floor, it’s just very, very hard to avoid it when running in a factory setting with human labour. So this was common – what was uncommon was what the guy did.
First, he tried catching it as it fell, which would’ve been fine – no contact with any surface and he could’ve just thrown it back into the tub it had fallen out of. 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. So first and foremost he’s not supposed to be touching anything that’s been on the floor. It cross contaminates his hands and he has nowhere to put the contaminated product anyway. But he did this, three times, and dropped it three times (freshly carved hams can be slippery when wearing vinyl gloves). He then, out of pure frustration/annoyance at the unwieldy ham, dropped down on all fours, and proceeded to pick up the raw, freshly cut, 6 kilo ham – by his teeth. Stood up, ham dangling from his chompers – and dropped it into the tub with around 600kg of product – and drove off with the tub for processing. I followed him and let him park the tub before I did a very cliche, ‘Ahem!’ type of scene.
He was fired a few minutes after that, and the entire tub of product discarded.”
“Oh, I’m Feeding My Friend”
“When my son was 5 or so, we had a nanny who used to look after him, and she used to take him to a local pub where one of her friends worked. He got used to sitting at the bar, eating a packet of crisps (chips) and drinking a soda.
The nanny and her friend were round the corner in the bar, chatting away, when a couple of besuited gentlemen wandered into the bar. My son was laying a line of crisps along the bar, and one of the gents started talking to him. It’s worth noting that the regulars in the bar were used to him being there, and often referred to him as the boss. They let him pour them drinks and so on, ostensibly under the supervision of the bar staff. Needless to say, it’s illegal for 5-year-olds to be employed as bar staff, even in the UK.
‘I’m in charge here. Would you like a drink?’ offered my son, scooting round the back of the bar.
‘No, it’s ok, thanks. What are the crisps for?’
‘Oh, I’m feeding my friend,’ my son replied.
‘Really, where’s your friend?’
‘He lives in that little hole.’ My son pointed to a hole in the wall towards the end of the bar. ‘And sometimes he comes out and I feed him.’
On cue, a small mouse appeared out of the hole, ran along the bar, and started eating the crisps.
The men were environmental health officers. The pub was shut down that week and never reopened. Luckily, they weren’t police (otherwise the nanny’s friend would have been in serious trouble).”
Cross-Contamination Is A Big Issue
“Worked 10 years as an inspector. Most dangerous is usually not the most disgusting. I’ve seen entire walk-in coolers that were running at 55-60°F and the staff didn’t even notice anything wrong. I’ve seen piles of mice that died getting stuck in the grease behind the fryer. I’ve seen staff throwing raw burgers on the grill then making a salad right after. I’ve seen squirrels and birds roaming freely inside a bread manufacturer. Most common critical violation: ‘Dish machine not sanitizing properly.'”
“Nobody Had A Clue How To Run A Restaurant”
“So I’m in training to be a health inspector and where I live, you need to spend a lot of time working with the health department and taking classes to be able to become licensed to work in the field. I have seen some interesting crap, let me tell you.
-Inspected a kitchen where staff was spraying Raid over food that was in the process of being prepared. That same kitchen had absolutely zero thermometers, flies and bugs in the baking materials (sugars, flour), did not clean surfaces after switching from raw poultry to beef etc. Nobody had a clue how to run a restaurant there. They did not pass.
-Walked into a restaurant where they were adamant about us not going into the basement. Didn’t understand why, and we had to go down there to check their chest freezers. Owner was 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. 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 in there, but there was an air mattress, a spackle bucket, and a few other personal belongings.”
They Wouldn’t Believe Him Until He Laid Out His Evidence
“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 1″-2″ 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.”
The Roaches Were Running The Place
“I’m a health inspector. The following are several things I’ve seen fairly recently at different places:
-Vent hood so dirty and clogged, 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, the roaches were crawling over the prepared food and the wait staff were just flicking them off, then bringing the plates to the customers
-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.”
Following Her Nose Led To A Nasty Discovery
“I can smell roaches the second I walk into a building (if they’re present). They have a nutty, oily smell that is very distinctive if you’re around them often enough. That’s a smell you never forget. I was in a popular buffet chain and couldn’t find the roaches I smelled. I looked everywhere. I called my buddy who was a pest control officer. He came in, grabbed a LARGE shop vac and said, ‘Move fast.’ He lifted off the back of the soft serve ice cream machine and they poured out like a waterfall all over the floor. We got them all cleaned up. Soft serve ice cream machines all leak and typically they’re not cleaned well. Hot, wet and dark is the perfect place for an infestation.”
You’d Expect Roaches, But Tree Frogs?!
“Some of my favorites, over the years, are:
-A Cuban Tree frog in the ice well. They don’t clean the ice wells, and it had fallen in and was half frozen, yet still alive
-A bag of onions hanging into the open pan of baked beans. Onion bags spend most of their time on the ground
-A hotel pan full of breading, stored on the counter and ‘sealed’ with plastic wrap. The abundant rats simply lifted up the wrap and feasted on the breading
-An ice cream freezer that was so infested with German roaches that they left a 2″ deep mat on the floor when the pest control company sprayed
-A cook who routinely dropped ingredients on the (filthy) floor, and scooped them back into the pot
-A resident squirrel that breaks into the bar, finds the crackers, opens them, and eats them while watching you work
Just to name a few.”
“Honestly, This Never Happens”
“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 entranceways, 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 only after verifying the food storage area was secure. So 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.’ They passed the health inspection.”