A half dozen local Publix Super Markets have failed their latest food safety inspection with serious violations including evidence of rodents, ants and food at dangerous temperatures.
ABC Action News anchor, Wendy Ryan ran into a customer walking out of one store with a Publix bag in hand. Cedrick Cutler had just bought lunch at the Publix Deli inside of Britton Plaza.
She stopped Cutler to ask him what he purchased.
"I got an 'Italian' for me and an 'Ultimate' for one of my co-workers," Cedrick replied.
Cedrick orders food from the deli inside of Publix Super Market twice a week as he works nearby.
"How's the food?" Ryan asked.
"I like it. It's affordable," he responded.
Cedrick knew nothing about the South Tampa Publix failing its last inspection due to rodents in the store.
Food safety inspectors with the Department of Agriculture found numerous rodent droppings behind a food pallet near the back room and storage area.
"I don't want to see rats running around!" Cedrick said emphatically.
The state also demanded Publix in Britton Plaza to throw out 20 pounds of sandwich meats after discovering they were stored under a leaking drain-line and were contaminated.
"How do you feel about that?" Ryan asked.
"I'm going to check my food and make sure it's OK," Cedrick said.
And he's not the only customer shocked.
Over 20 years ago Jackie Martin moved to Florida from New York and has shopped at Publix ever since.
"You like Publix?" Ryan asked.
"I prefer Publix if I had a choice," Jackie said.
But she's also disappointed to hear about this latest report card.
"They failed their inspections with the state," Ryan explains.
"That's terrible! You got to buy food for your family and everything," Jackie said.
And our ABC Action News I-Team found food safety inspectors not passing another South Tampa Publix Super Market. The store at 1313 South Dale Mabry Highway near Neptune.
In a special Dirty Dining investigation, we uncovered inspectors issued a stop sale and destruction order on 200 pounds of food in a cooler near the deli because of dangerous temperatures that could make you sick.
They include whole roasted chickens, various salads, macaroni and cheese and Cuban sandwiches.
The Department of Agriculture also found employees not washing their hands or wearing gloves while prepping food.
"That's kind of a rude awakening right there," Cedrick added.
Other Publix Super Markets not making the grade in Tampa?
The store at 8975 Race Track Road after the state saw fly glue strips hanging over exposed bread and other food in the bakery, Iive ants on the walls, and sandwiches, salads, and chicken wings all over 50 degrees when they should be 41-degrees or colder.
Many hot soups were also at improper temperatures because heating equipment wasn't working at the soup bar.
Some of those items including mushroom soup, potato and cheddar soup, and chili with beans soup.
Two Lutz Publix Super Market locations also failed their last state inspection.
The Publix at 19221 North Dale Mabry Highway didn't pass.
Inspectors found 100 pounds of food with whole chickens, fried chicken, macaroni and cheese, chicken wings and grab and go sandwiches at alarming temperatures and needing to be destroyed.
The other Lutz Publix at 16560 North Nebraska Avenue did not pass it's last state inspection due to unsanitary equipment throughout the kitchen because the dish machine was not sanitizing.
Also during the last visit by food safety inspectors, that Publix store's sandwiches, chicken and wild rice, chicken noodle soup, chili with beans, turkey sausage, kale and sweet potato soup, popcorn shrimp, Greek salad, cooked cat fish, and macaroni and cheese were all unsafe temperature levels.
In Manatee County two Publix stores in that area did not pass their last sanitation rating.
The Lakewood Ranch's Publix on Market Street failed due to food not being protected from cross contamination with an open bin of bread spattered with raw chicken juice, fresh baked goods in contact with a garbage can, and subs at the sub station at unsafely warm temperatures.
And in Bradenton the Publix at 4651 Cortez Road West did not pass its state check-up after refrigerated display cases in the dairy, meat and seafood departments were all not working properly with food inside at dangerous levels.
And inspectors witnessed rotisserie chickens being probed with contaminated, non-sterilized thermometers.
With seven failed Publix Super Markets, loyal customers we met now are having a hard time shopping there.
"Is it disappointing?" Ryan asked Cedrick.
"Yes, it is because you expect them to keep your food clean. They sell food and everyone shops. It should be clean," he answered.
"Will you go back?" Ryan asked Jackie.
"I probably would but I'd probably be very careful what I buy," she answered.
"Food safety is a top priority at Publix. We differentiate ourselves from our competitors by offering a wide variety of fresh, quality products to our customers. Many of those products are made fresh daily in our stores. All associates who work in our fresh product environments complete extensive training on how to safely prepare our products. In fact, we have been recognized for our proactive approach to food safety, receiving the Black Pearl Award for Food Safety and Quality from the International Association for Food Protection in 2013. Last year, we were recognized with the Quality Achievement Award from the Safe Quality Foods Institute.
We work closely with the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (FDACS) to address any food safety related issues and ensure that our associates are following the most current food handling and food safety guidelines. In 2015, FDACS enacted changes to the inspection rating process that were implemented without industry or public feedback. We have requested updated information on the state's food safety standards and expectations; unfortunately we have not received an updated inspection standards manual since 1999. We remain committed to working with FDACS in addressing industry concerns related to the inspections process.
Media and Community Relations Manager
Publix Super Markets, Inc.
Here are the 7 Publix Super Markets that failed inspections: