Health Inspectors Share The Most Disgusting Thing They’ve Found While On The Job
Going out to eat at your favorite restaurant is usually an enjoyable experience. It’s a time to enjoy a delicious cooked meal without worrying about doing any dishes— an absolute win-win situation. Unless your food is made incorrectly, served cold, or the service is terrible, you have nothing to really worry about. People think they know exactly what’s going on behind the scenes at their favorite eatery. However, sanitary conditions are never a given. An ‘A’ rating doesn’t always translate to a clean kitchen behind closed doors. That’s why every restaurant’s kitchen must undergo an inspection each year.
Here, we compiled stories from health inspectors that shared the most appalling thing they’ve seen behind closed doors at a restaurant. From bug infestations to less-than-stellar sanitary practices, these Reddit stories may have you feeling queasy. Read with caution— you are bound to lose your appetite. These real-life accounts will have you second-guessing your next dining experience!
#25 Well There’s Your Answer
I once finished up a foodborne illness investigation, not finding much that could have caused the illness, and left.
I parked my car on the other side of the street in full view of the restaurant I was just at. I watched the dishwasher come out the back door, light a cigarette, smoke for a minute, then hunch over and spew all over the grass. Then he took another drag and went back inside. I have mild emetophobia (phobia of vomit), so I got a bit of a cold sweat, then ran across the street and basically dragged him outside.
I’ve got a lot of stories, but that was the worst for me.
#24 A Literal Buffet Nightmare
I was a health inspector long ago. Was at a Golden Corral, going through the kitchen area. As I was squatting down to check a dishwasher, my foot broke through the tile floor and into a sewer pipe that ran underneath. Cockroaches come boiling out of the hole. Turns out the entire floor was rotten from a water leak in the sewer pipe. Best/worst part? The general manager tried to fight me when I told them they had to close down until they fixed the open hole into a pipe full of cockroaches and waste.
#23 How Was This Place Even Open
There was a 14-inch border of mold/dirt scum all the way around the edge of the restaurant.
Boxes that had five-year-old shipping labels blocking the path to the mops/mop buckets/mop sink.
No sanitizer buckets.
No sanitizer cloths.
Mold in the fans blowing over open food in the cooler.
Didn’t bother finishing the inspection. Just shut them down.
#22 Common Sense Isn’t Common
I used to work on my own as a baker in a supermarket and the cleaners would come in at 10PM at night when the last worker left and he would be finished by 2AM when I arrived.
One day I was half an hour early and I walked up to my department and the cleaner was mopping the prep tables and the equipment with the same water he had used to clean the floor. I wish I was joking. To use the mop on the tables is stupid but using the same water as well? Insane. I told his boss when he came in because I simply had to and his face was a picture. He really didn’t believe me until I got him to have a look on CCTV.
Oh I forgot, he wasn’t supposed to even touch the machinery, that was my job. So he was dirtying my already clean equipment.
#21 Overwhelming Infestation
I did pest control for ten years I’ve definitely seen some nasty stuff. I happened to get picked to take care of roaches and mice at a very heavily populated Somali business type area. It spans about two city blocks and housed restaurants and shops. It was basically a four-wall warehouse partitioned off into sections inside.
The horrors of roaches and mice in these restaurants was unlike anything I have seen. Literally, both creatures walking over your feet, over the food, on the counters, in and out of the coolers, stoves, food storage bins, you name it.
We eventually gave up rather quickly since the restaurant owners didn’t really care and didn’t help us out any by sealing foods and cleaning and whatnot. I had asked the owner of the building, the man who initially called us, why haven’t they been shut down by the city and he said, “because no Caucasian people come here so no one cares”.
Never again will I do pest control.
#20 The Newest Item On The Menu
Not an inspector, but my significant other told me about what happened at a popular seafood restaurant in my town. A guy working the fry station had a magnetic kitchen timer above the fryer stuck to the hood vent above. One day, the timer fell into the hot grease. They managed to fish out the main plastic part, but the batteries were nowhere to be found. It was determined that the batteries must have disintegrated into the grease. Being a seafood restaurant in the south, half of the menu is fried. The owner is too much of a skinflint to stop serving fried food and change out the grease during the dinner rush. So whoever ate catfish that night had it fried in a tangy alkaline grease.
#19 A Long List Of Infractions
Health inspector here! Here are my top 3:
1. An old liquor store, which had once been the front unit of a housing duplex, had now coverted into a full-service deli (sandwiches, fried chicken, etc.) without plan review, so they were severely lacking in all the proper space and equipment. Observed were:
-Rat infestation; droppings everywhere in the place
-Mountains of old cast-off equipment in the back (giving the rats a home)
-Meat defrosting on the hood of an inoperable car on the side alley
-Back unit of duplex (now converted to food storage) had unfinished wooden boards on the floor, which were now soft and rotting from soaking up years of meat juice and everything else.
2. While inspecting a chinese buffet, I noted to the employees that there were tubs of frozen fried shrimp stacked on top of one a other without covers, so they needed to discard the top layers of the food and put on the tub lids. As they scrambled to do so, they knocked over the tower of shrimp, spilling it everywhere. As I was standing there, they hurridly started scooping the shrimp off the floor and back into the tubs. I’M STANDING RIGHT HERE YOU GUYS.
3. A guy ordered commercial sausage-making equipment and had it delivered to his private home. Manufacturer got suspicious and tipped off the health deparment. Turns out the guy would go hunting all sorts of exotic game meat without permits, process them into sausages in his rat-infested garage (droppings the size of jelly beans), and was selling them to the public.
Don’t buy food from “home cooks” folks!
#18 A New Ice Cream Flavor
High-end Thai place in a popular tourist area. Go downstairs to the kitchen and open up their freezer. On the top shelf of the freezer, they are storing loose beef, pork, and chicken in three separate piles. The meats are not in any containers. They are all sitting on a large piece of cardboard the restaurant had placed on the bottom of the shelf.
We poke the cardboard and our finger goes right through it. The juices from the three meats had turned the cardboard into pulp. We then notice it dripping from the combined sludge of chicken, pork, and beef blood. From the looks of the cardboard, it had been dripping for a while.
We look to the shelf below to see the results of the drip. Underneath the meats, in the shelf second from the top, the restaurant was storing three buckets of ice cream. Without lids. Directly under the meat drip.
We look inside the ice cream containers and see congealed, partially frozen, cardboard-laced raw-meat drippings, pooled in the center of each tub of ice cream. None of the ice creams were more than halfway full.
We ask the kitchen manager how long they’ve been storing their items like this. He doesn’t remember. At least a few months.
My theory is, because the place was A) a “nice” restaurant and B) an “ethnic” restaurant, patrons were less likely to complain about odd flavors. For example, instead of complaining about blood in the ice cream, wondering out loud if that taste is star anise.
That’s one of the few inspections that made me feel physically sick. Place still got an A because the restaurant grade system in my city is about as effective as TSA.
A tuna canning plant in Los Angeles was off of Terminal Island, the processing plant owned the entire island a few miles off shore. Needless to say, had to take a boat to the plant to look at some machinery they needed repaired.
We get to the plant and there are dozens of cats, inside the plant, outside the plant, wharehouse, etc. CATS EVERYWHERE! Nobody said anything. They were even in the office building. After a few trips, I finally asked. One guy said in a joke, “It’s either rats or cats. We don’t have a rat problem here.”
Not a health inspector, but heard this story through a guy who services my soft serve machines.
As info for those not in the ice cream business, most soft serve machines need to be cleaned (meaning fully disassembled, scrubbed, and sanitized) at least weekly, some every 3 days.
He got a call from a woman complaining that the vanilla side of her machine was coming out with black specks in it. He was worried it might be grinding up an o-ring or worse. He took the head off the machine and claims he nearly lost his lunch, as the barrel was infested with cockroaches. Apparently, the woman had never cleaned the machine in the several months she had been open. Somehow the roaches got into it (at night, the barrel stops freezing, and just keeps the mix cool, so it returns to a liquid) and were being ground up and expelled as additional protein. How long has it been doing this? About a week! Ewwww.
#15 A Risk Some Are Willing To Take
Guys, it’s my first time in Bangkok, Thailand. I just went on a food tour. I don’t know if you know about Bangkok. But, it’s humid as heck here. Some of the vendors had fish sitting in cardboard. Flies, cockroaches, rats, etc … as far as the eye can see.
I ate all the food though. I’ll let you know if I die.
I can tell you what they didn’t find. When I worked at Denny’s when the health inspector came the cooks took all the expired food out of the fridge and stored it in their cars and by the dumpster until after the health inspector left and then they put it all back. I ended up quitting that job after I got written up for refusing to change the dates on the labels of all the expired food, which was one of the primary jobs of the graveyard server.
#13 That’s Not How This Works
So, a friend of mine is a health inspector.
She walks into a local convenience store and discovers a litter box behind the counter. Totally unacceptable. Tells the proprietor that he needs to get rid of the litter box. That’s kind of a health code violation.
He replies, “Well, it’s for the cat. We’ve been having mice/rat issues.”
To which she’s all, “Ohhhhh.”
Cat walks up. She tells him he can’t have a cat in a food establishment. He hands the cat to his wife and she takes it out of the store to their camper trailer nearby the store. Waits for her to leave.
Rinse and repeat.
#12 Pizza Pizza
Not a health inspector but an ex-shift manager at a Sbarro. I watched the GM regularly drop dough on the ground, pick it up, dust it off and then continue to prep it for pizzas. He also told the entire staff to cut around the mold on the produce because it was too costly to buy new produce when our stock went bad. He was a bad GM (they also promoted him to a much busier location) and I regularly tell people to not eat there.
#11 One Man’s Trash Is Another Man’s Treasure
Not a health inspector, but I used to be a bus boy at a nice Italian restaurant in my home town. We had problems with the Chinese place across the street because we found out that they had been taking the lettuce that we throw in the dumpster at the end of the night. Our manager used to stand outside and guard the dumpster so they wouldn’t take our garbage.
Another experience working at a local cafe. I was cutting up cheese from a walk-in fridge and I found a hole in the cardboard box that the cheese was kept in. Turned out it was from rats or mice, and they were eating the cheese. Told my manager about it and he told me to cut around the bite marks and still used the cheese. Left that job shortly after.
#10 Sharp Taco Special!
Not a good inspector, but once I ordered tacos from a high-end vegan restaurant in LA. When I bit into the taco I felt immediately a hard chunk gently slice into the roof of my mouth. I pulled out a one-inch shard of glass from my taco. Management said they “accidentally broke a glass near the tacos and they thought they got all of it” they offered a new plate of free tacos but I was like my mouth is bleeding why would I want another taco?
#9 Not To Be Forward, But…
Not an inspector, but I worked at a sushi and hibachi restaurant for about a year as a server, host and delivery driver. This place had a ton of things that were certainly questionable but a few of them ended up causing me to leave the place. In the dry storage area, they had cleaning chemicals directly above all of the to-go food packages and plastics ware. In that same room, which was really big, I’d randomly see a sleeping bag and pillow tucked away every once and a while. It always stuck out but I never really thought too much into until I went back to grab a bottle of wine and sure enough had stepped on a sleeping woman. She started yelling and I just ran out. My manager pulled me aside later, which I assume was going to be a conversation about keeping that hush- hush but no. The dude offered me $25,000 to marry a Thai chick so she could get a green card. My response to him was my two weeks notice.
#8 Problem Solved
I worked in a popular sandwich shop. Our floor drains were smelling rancid for weeks and we’re backing up with what was assumed to be sewage. My manager told our owners every single day for three weeks that this needed to be fixed and they did nothing. So in the middle of my shift one day, a health inspector came in and immediately shut us down. My manager told me right there that she anonymously called the health dept because that was the only way the owners were going to end up fixing the problem.
#7 Talk About High-Class Dining
Not a health inspector but, when I was in my late teens, I worked at a “5 star” restaurant where they were using potatoes and other produce with maggots in them consistently. Restaurants like these easily charge people $285-$350 a head for events like New Year’s Eve. They got shut down.
#6 Quarter Pan Of Death
I found a quarter hotel pan under a condenser inside a fridge on the line at the waffle house.
During my training I kept asking the manager why there was water pooling out of the fridge, why the waffle batter was sitting in a puddle, and why she was wiping it out with a towel for brushing crumbs of the sandwich board. She told me the night crew would fix it.
I got a two-day illness with the usual liquids coming out both ends. I called out for my shift that was to begin in six hours and told them to not expect me the next day. I’d gotten my roommate a job a couple weeks before then. He got sick the next day and called in with the same symptoms. They just fired him, because of the probationary period. They call me shocked that I wasn’t there, and I reminded them of the giant poster stating it was illegal for me to work. The next day when I came in she had the district manager there, and they said I would be fired if I didn’t sign a write up “for not clearly communicating with them.” I told them what they were doing was illegal, and scribbled on it the symptoms I had called out for.
#5 Your Friend Needs Better Taste
Not a health inspector, but I’ve seen some stuff. The worst was a restaurant a friend took me to. He loved it and said it was on him, but it was the sketchiest joint. If he hadn’t spent the whole trip talking about how he eats there twice a week and loved it so much I probably would’ve left. The place was disgusting. Mold on the walls, dirty floors, piles of unwashed dishes on the customer tables, etc. When we left I happened to notice the health inspection sign. They’d gotten a 36/100. I didn’t even know it was possible to score that low and stay open!
#4 This Bean Is Alive!
Our local health inspector told us a funny conversation he had with a restaurant owner:
Inspector: Pulls bug out of already prepared food, “What’s this?”
Owner: “That’s a bean.”
Inspector: “Beans don’t have legs!”
#3 Now That’s Some Serious Dedication
Not a health inspector, but I worked as a janitor/prep cook/busser at a restaurant outside of D.C. There was this dishwasher there named Santana who was a great guy, older gentleman who didn’t speak much English and came from Latin America somewhere. Anyways, I guess growing up he didn’t have the luxury of wasting food, so whenever a dish would come back with food on it, Santana would scarf it down as he worked. If that wasn’t gross enough, he once chopped off like the first joint of his finger while working prep and literally just threw it out and kept working. Eventually the head chef noticed his glove was full of blood, so he dug the finger out of the trash and drove him to the hospital.
Santana was a good guy and a good worker, but some of the stuff he did was just downright nasty.
#2 Like Out Of A Horror Movie
This was in a Mexican restaurant in Washington state. Showed up and they were cooking in ankle deep sludge from a backed up drain. There undercounter refrigeration was going out so they loaded up hotel pans with ice to keep things cold. Everytime they pulled the doors open, nasty melted ice and meat juices would slosh out. Had to go out and tell everyone to stop eating the food it was so bad.
#1 It All Comes Full Circle
Not a health inspector, I worked at a dining hall in college. During a visit, the health inspector knocked over a bunch of the papers we wrapped burritos in on the nasty floor. He proceeded to place all the contaminated papers back on the counter to be served to customers. Even healthy inspectors have given up on college dining services.