Dirty Dining: Dollar discount stores fail with inspectors because of rodent infestations

TAMPA, Fla. - No matter what you buy, discount dollar stores can be worth the trip for inexpensive products. But some stores are offering something extra on shelves.

"I was a little worried then," said Katherine Sharp, an animal lover.
 
Katherine spends $50.00 a week on cat food at the Family Dollar Store at 3201 Central Avenue in
St. Petersburg. She feeds six kitties but couldn't purchase anything recently.
 
"I was in here last month and it was all taped off. You couldn't buy food products or any pet items, nothing at all," Katherine said.
 
According to the Department of Agriculture's inspection report, that stop sale was issued in March on 20,000 pounds of all food products because of a rodent infestation.
 
The state failed the store twice that month with two poor ratings on March 12 and March 26, after finding rodent droppings next to and directly on packaged food and pet food along with food items chewed up.
 
And three other poor scores were given over the last year, after inspectors discovered live and dead rodents in the pet food area, more rodent feces and food adulterated by the infestation.
 
When we visited the store, we spoke to store manager Ruth. She told us that she had just been hired and knew nothing about past inspections.
 
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The St. Petersburg Family Dollar wasn't the only store in the family to fail.
 
Cathy Stack buys items at the Bradenton Family Dollar at 9516 Cortez Blvd because she lives in the neighborhood.
 
"I don't know if you're aware but they've had a bit of a rodent problem," we told Cathy.
 
"Yeah, it's in all the buildings," she responded.
 
Cathy knew about the rodent infestation at that store documented in several inspections.
 
In November the state failed the store twice with poor scores after finding live rodents running in the store, rodent droppings and urine throughout the storage area and multiple bags of snack items gnawed on.
 
Our undercover camera caught similar video during our visit.
 
"There's no problem. We have no problem," said the Family Dollar assistant manager at the Bradenton store.
 
She didn't want to give us her name but had this to say about the rodents.
 
"That was six months ago and we had a slight problem. We have no problems," the manager claimed.
 
"So everything has been cleaned up?" we asked.
 
"Everything's cleaned. Call our pest control people and talk with them," she responded.
 
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Tony Lazo shops at the Dollar General on 4251 North Washington Blvd in Sarasota almost every day. But a few months ago, he knew the store had a problem.
 
"I could smell it," Tony said.
 
"What did it smell like?" we asked.
 
"Like a dead animal to be honest," Tony responded.
 
And he was right. In September, inspectors found dead rodents in the back room, rodent droppings and urine on grocery shelves and chewed up bird food.
 
So we went inside the store to get some answers, but the manager on duty said she couldn't talk to us.
 
"No manager of this store can speak with us?" Ryan asked.
 
"Nope, you have to go through corporate," she said.
 
Dollar General responded to our story by issuing following statement:
 
Dollar General is committed to creating a safe and healthy environment for our employees and for our shoppers.  When issues are brought to our attention, we will act swiftly to address them. The inspections in question were conducted more than seven months ago, and the issues identified were promptly and thoroughly addressed at that time.  The Dollar General store in Sarasota has since achieved great ratings in subsequent inspections – including one conducted a month ago.
 
Tawn Earnest
Sr. Director, Corp. Communications
 
Family Dollar responded to our story by issuing the following statement:
 
"With the health and safety of our customers in mind, both Family Dollar stores included in your story have passed their most recent inspection.  While we apologize for any inconvenience during clean up, customers should feel comfortable shopping our stores for their everyday needs."
 
The two stores have passed inspection on the following dates:
Store 4369 (Bradenton)  – 5/1/2012
Store 1622 (St Petersburg) – 3/26/2012
 
Josh Braverman
Communication Director
Family Dollar
 
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