I grew up in a restaurant family that goes back several generations and ends with me. My grandparents owned multiple restaurants, my parents both worked in the business, and thus I’ve been exposed to most of the seedy things that customers never see in a restaurant. I don’t mean that to sound like my family wasn’t running the cleanliest of restaurants on planet earth (it was clean as a hospital), I just mean that you ‘hear things’ when you spend that much time around restaurant people, things that make your skin crawl. Below, we’ve got some health inspectors and other restaurant folk sharing the worst, most disgustingly egregious health code violations they’ve ever seen on the job, and it’s terrifying (via AskReddit):
My favorite chinese restaurant got shut down. My ex-wife worked for the city and i asked her what was the deal. She said the health inspectors found sometbing leaking from the celling. They lifted the ceiling tile and shined a flash light and saw multiple eyes staring back at them. It was chickens. They were raising chickens in the celing and chicken shit was dripping in the food that I had been eating at least once a week.
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 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.” They passed the health inspection.
tl;dr: Health inspector witnesses escaped farm animal licking all the bread in a bakery, passes health inspection anyway
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 rocks up one day unannounced on a blazing hot day in the middle of summer, and the owner greats him and shows him around wearing a white singlet top with sweat patches under the arms, short shorts and no shoes. This guys 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 decides to make a tactful comment about having 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 notices that needs immediate attention is the deep fryer itself. The oil is old and filthy, and likely full of this guys hair, so he orders the bloke to drain it out right then and there. The owner does so, and at the bottom of the oil vat is 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 bought 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 has 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.
My friend was inspecting a restaurant – walked out the back to find a man stirring a huge pot of curry. With his arm. No spoon or anything, just up to his hairy elbows in curry.
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 of health inspector my stepmother was consulted to see if any of the lobsters were viable and she told them no, the load is a total loss since there were literally lobsters scattered across the highway covered in dirt, sand, etc.
Fast forward 24hrs 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.
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.
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.
Not a health inspector but related story:
I was a dishwasher at a local restaurant for my first job at 16. One night we were cleaning up after closing as usual. I uncorked my sink just as we wrapped and left to do something else. As I stepped away, the waitress said, “Your sink’s leaking.”
I turned around to find brown sludge pouring out of the bottom of the sink. Not just that one but also the sink in the food prep area. The whole kitchen flooded with what I soon discovered to be sewage, complete with poopy bits and toilet paper. It rose up so high I was literally ankle deep in shit.
The waitress bailed and called her ex-boyfriend, the cooks climbed like spidermen out of the kitchen, and my manager locked herself in her office. I stood alone, 16 years old working my first job, and ankle deep in poop with a squeegee in hand. I mopped that kitchen until past midnight.
When I got home, I walked in like I’d been blasted by napalm. The next morning my boss called me in early. The damn restaurant opened the next day and served food like there wasn’t poop everywhere. Hell, when I showed up there was still solid poop in the drains.
I quit soon after and didn’t return for a long time. When I finally did pass by the place was closed for health violations. I wonder why…
Not a health inspector, but someone in my city repainted their floor with non slip paint and literally painted over a dead rat, sealing it in there.
And to top it off, it was in the middle of the kitchen, not under a bench or anything similar.
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 relatively often happened 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 noone was watching, he tried picking it up, and dropped it again. He did this 3 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, 3 times, and dropped it 3 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.
He was fired a few minutes after that, and the entire tub of product discarded.
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, but that there was still 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.
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.
Mentioned this one somewhere before on Reddit. Used to have a job working as an inspector for storage tanks at places like dairies and factories. 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 arsed to spend the time sucking out the rest of the cleaning fluid used in the cleaning process and, as standard, 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.
(edit) My 12 gallon estimate is just that – an estimate. It was a huge milk storage silo (40,000l iirc) and roughly half an inch of the floor of the tank was covered in cleaning fluid. The dilutions we’re talking about probably wouldn’t have been harmful or even tastable after being pasteurised and mixed with cheesecake ingredients. But that’s also a guess, and it’s also not the point.
Aaaand last but certainly not least:
Health inspector here. I worked on the private side auditing 29 different chains in the US. I did a couple inspections a day for a little under three years. I have hundreds of stories.
1 I can smell roaches the second I walk into a building (if they’re present). They have a nutty oily smell that is very distintive if you’re around them often enough. That’s a smell you never forget.
relevant story: 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.
2. People don’t’ know how to wash and glove their hands
Relevant story: I cant tell you how many times I’ve seen cooks walk out of the bathroom with their gloves and apron still on. That makes my blood boil.
3. People don’t know how to properly cool a cooked product
relevant story. I saw a 5 gallon cambro of rice in a walk in with no date. i asked how long it had been cooling and they explained for several days. Knowing that rice is incredibly difficult to cool, i asked them to dump it out onto a clean table. The smell of death (clostridium) filled the air. that rice would have probably killed someone.
4 Ice machines are never clean.
relevant story: 9 times our of 10 an ice machine has an active and pretty impressive slime mold in it. just stick your head in and look up.
5 Soda guns are typically not clean.
relevant story: i can’t tell you how many time I’ve pulled the cap off the soda gun to see maggots crawling around in the buildup. Think about that next time you order a coke at your favorite mexican restaurant.
6. fi 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 flys are breeding in the scum impacted int he drain.
Bonus story before my laptop dies: 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 cose 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 table top was dripping with grease and fat from the BBQ. No clue how if 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.
I apologize if you’re planning on never eating again. That wasn’t my intention at all here today, I just thought you bros should know what dangers are out there in the world. There are a ton more of these health inspector stories over on AskReddit, so if you’re interested in reading more you can CLICK HERE to read them all!