Four dead rodents found inside the Kroger on West University Drive prompted the store to shut down late Tuesday morning.
Reports of rats at the grocery store were sent to city development service officials at the end of last week, coinciding with a widely circulated Facebook post showing a rat in the storage area, purportedly at this Kroger location. A secondary Facebook post purported to show rodent damage to bags of chips.
“This does occur occasionally, and it’s because rodents live amongst humans — and if they can find a place to be hidden and get food or any liquid, that’s a place they’re going to stay,” said Kevin Cummings, supervisor for consumer health in the city’s Development Services office. “It just happened to be occurring here.”
Cummings inspected the store Friday, Saturday and Sunday to observe the steps Kroger was taking to fix the problem over the holiday weekend. When he returned at 10 a.m. Tuesday for another inspection, he saw four rodents in traps. At that point, Kroger employees agreed to voluntarily shut down the store, which is normally open 24 hours a day.
The store will reopen only after Cummings reinspects the property and deems it clean and clear. Customers with prescriptions to pick up are asked to use the walk-up pharmacy window, according to a sign posted at the store.
In a statement, April Martin Nickels, a spokeswoman for Kroger, said company officials are working to eradicate the problem and are complying with city officials and pest specialists.
“We have no tolerance for pests of any kind in our stores. Our food safety and cleanliness standards are of utmost importance, and we have an established, aggressive response in place,” she said in the emailed statement. “Safety is a core value at Kroger, and we appreciate our customers’ patience as we work to improve facility and maintenance items. We apologize for the inconvenience as we make repairs to improve our store.”
A rodent problem at the store was first documented in June this year, when a formal complaint was filed with the building inspections division of the city, according to the store’s inspection file.
An inspection notes a pest control company was “being proactive by putting out poison and traps where possible.” Two days later, another inspector followed up and noted a pest control company was visiting the store daily to check rat traps. The bread aisle, dog food aisle and nutrition aisle were all affected and cleaned. By July 10, a follow-up noted there was not much activity.
The issue re-emerged Friday when health services fielded a complaint about rodent activity. The day before, a video and images were posted on Facebook by a person who allegedly stocked products for a vendor at the store showing a rat on top of a box of snacks along with chip packages that were gnawed through.
In an initial inspection Friday, Cummings said a food safety representative for the store was already addressing the problem. He then followed up with inspections Saturday, Sunday and again Tuesday — when he found four rats on glue boards under the bread and soft drink aisles.
At that point, the store agreed to shut down to fully address the problem, Cummings said.
“[Store management] came up with the appropriate steps,” he said. “Basically, it’s a lot of cleaning, removing anything underneath the aisles and placing nontoxic glue traps for any kinds of rodents that might be underneath shelving.”
The shelving and product will be moved forward to make sure everything is visible and cleaned, sources said.
The timeline is up to the store, and Cummings expects to be called back to the location for another inspection Wednesday afternoon. Both city officials and company representatives said the store will be cleared to open only when it’s deemed safe and sanitary.
“We will continue to comply with the city’s requests and will be open as soon as possible,” Martin Nickels said in the company statement.