Mouse video prompts inspection at local restaurant
BRATTLEBORO — An eight-second video posted to YouTube of a mouse on top of a bank of fryolators at the local Burger King resulted in a visit from a state health inspector Tuesday.
"We had one of our inspectors visit the Brattleboro Burger King based on the video," said Andy Chevrefils, public health inspection manager for the Food and Lodging Program of the Vermont Department of Health. "We also had a conversation with the complainant."
The video was posted on Monday to the YouTube page of a former employee. Within 24 hours, the state health inspector visited the Burger King on Canal Street.
"We did not see any evidence of rodents," said Chevrefils. "But we did see the video."
Chevrefils said the manager told the health inspector he was aware of the video. He also told the inspector that he had been working with a pest control company.
"He will continue to work with the company to insure there is no further issue with rodents," said Chevrefils.
The former employee who posted the mouse video also posted to YouTube an audio recording of his termination on Tuesday. The Reformer has decided not to name the former employee or his former manager.
In the audio, the manager said he was sorry, but he had been told by higher ups to terminate the employee.
"What were you thinking?" said the manager. "Do you know how many lives you jeopardized by doing that? Everybody at this store."
The former employee replied that he wasn't really thinking about what he was doing and that he had posted it to his personal YouTube page and didn't expect it to be circulated by other people. As of Wednesday, the mouse video had been viewed nearly 3,000 times.
"Unfortunately, because it's so blown out of proportion," said the manager, "I can't have you working here anymore. I'm sorry. I've let a lot of stuff slide that I probably shouldn't have. I know you are a good kid. You don't think sometimes, but this, I can't cover."
He also noted that if somebody complained to the health department the facility would get a visit from a health inspector.
"They're not going to find anything, because I've been frikkin' cleaning since yesterday," said the manager.
Bill Spencer, who owns the Brattleboro Burger King and another in Bennington, when told by the Reformer of the manager's comment, said "We clean all the time. We pass Burger King inspections and we always have good scores with the health department. We do what we are supposed to do and we follow the right procedures."
The health inspector conducted a 44-point inspection on Tuesday and reported that Burger King received three demerit points, rating a 97 out of a possible 100.
"That's typically what we get," said Spencer.
According to the inspection report, the demerits were for the poor condition of the door gaskets of the walk-in cooler and freezer; the soiled condition of the floor under the fryers and the walk-in freezer; appropriate cleaning methods are not being used on ceiling tiles; and "Walls and/or ceilings are not properly constructed and maintained in good repair."
The inspection report noted there appears to be a leaky ceiling in the vicinity of the fryolators. "[Person in charge] stated that the facility owner has had the roof patched, but is now looking for a contractor to conduct a more substantial repair."
In addition to regular inspections from Burger King and the state, Spencer said he is required as part of his franchise license to subscribe to ServSafe, which provides food safety training and certification.
Spencer also said the employee who took the video was terminated because he violated a company rule against taking video in the restaurant. He also said the employee could have contacted him or any of the other four store managers about the mouse.
"There are a lot of people an employee can go to," said Spencer.
In the termination video posted to YouTube, the manager noted that the Burger King is in an old building. "You can't find an old building in this state that doesn't have mice," he said.
Spencer said over the 40 years the store has been in Brattleboro there have only been two or three times a mouse has been seen in the restaurant, which is surprising, seeing as the building borders on a forested area.
"It does happen," said Spencer. "There's not much you can do about it."
He said his pest control company visits the facility once a month. "We do what we can do, but the pest control company said this has been a very difficult year."
In late September, Scott Darling, a wildlife biologist with the Vermont Department of Fish and Wildlife told WCAX that exterminators are reporting a 50 percent increase in mouse removal requests.
The Vermont Department of Health does not keep track of the mouse population but said the rise in sightings makes sense. Wildlife biologists say there was an uptick in seed production last year, which is food for mice.
"Research has shown when those seeds and fruits are abundant, mice survive better in the winter, they produce earlier, reproduce at a younger age, and also have more litters," Darling told WCAX.
Chevrefils told the Reformer that the owner and managers of the local Burger King have cooperated fully with the health inspector, and a follow-up inspection will be conducted to make sure the franchisee remains in compliance with health standards.
"We don't see these types of videos very often," said Chevrefils "We want to make sure that if there is a problem like that, establishments work with the health department. And if a customer sees something like this, they should contact our office as soon as possible."
Chevrefils told the Reformer most food service establishments, whether retail or manufacturing, have a pest control company for routine maintenance and monitoring. He said it's very important that these businesses have a pest control plan in place to prevent problems like the one documented in the video. "Pest control is a big part of the food business."
Bob Audette can be contacted at 802-254-2311, ext. 151, or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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