"THE DINING AREA seemed clean enough. I identified myself as a public health inspector and asked to see the kitchen. I went back and all I could see were swarms of roaches everywhere. I was actually afraid to put my briefcase down for fear they’d get inside. I asked the woman who owned the place to show me the basement. She hesitated, then said: ‘You go on down there if you really want to, but I’m not going.’
"I opened the door and almost vomited from the stench. There had to be something down there that was decomposing. All I had was my flashlight, so I held that in one hand, picked up a broom-stick with the other, and went down. Before I hit the bottom step, I counted eight dead rats. Evidently, an exterminator had been in there at some time, and the poison he spread around lasted for months. It was cold outside, but it was hot and humid in the basement and that made the bodies rot that much faster. I came back a couple hours later with my supervisor and we found open sewer lines down there.
"The rats had nests in the walls and a system of tunnels so complicated that all they needed were ‘For Rent’ signs."
— RANDY HIRSCHHORN, Inspector
Philadelphia Department of Public Health
PLEASE DON’T EAT the daisies or much of anything else in Philadelphia’s vast wasteland of food filth. Conditions are so unsanitary in some areas that the entree is unsafe at any meal.
With beetles in the flour, roaches in the rice and rats in the pantry, who cares about a fly in his soup?
Tax-paying consumers must have bats in the belfry to tolerate the low level of sanitation that exists in many restaurants, retail stores and food preparation plants in Philadelphia, the surrounding suburban counties, and New Jersey too, for that matter.
Of course, every food store and restaurant in the city is not deemed automatically hazardous to your health, but enough are to qualify the situation as almost epidemic. It’s not that the food is basically unwholesome or the food handlers unsavory, it’s just that Philadelphia’s method of assuring food safety and sanitation is dismayingly inadequate.
The Philadelphia Department of Health will vouch for the thousands of admirable, exemplary eating places, retail stores and processing plants in town, just as it will vouch for the fact that far too many are slipshod operations with irresponsible management and serious sanitation shortcomings.
Chances are good that there are probably more germs per cubic inch behind the counter of your local snack bar than under all the microscopes in the Mayo clinic.
According to the Health Department, too much of the food we eat is strictly from hunger. Make the rounds with a public health sanitarian and you can forget about the doggie bag — better bring a sick-bag instead.
Today, most of these inspectors are drawn from the ranks of young, professional environmental investigators who are attempting to rescue Philadelphia’s foundering Health Department.