UPDATE (March 29, 2023): The Marion County Public Health Department fully reinstated the Walmart’s food license. All areas are cleared for operation, and the health department will continue to monitor the situation.
MARION COUNTY, Ind. — A rodent issue at a Walmart off Pendleton Pike led to its food license being suspended until the problem is taken care of.
The Marion County Public Health Department first went in for an inspection Wednesday. According to a report, a customer had complained of rodent droppings and even finding a mouse inside a bag of hotdog buns.
The health inspector found similar problems, rodent droppings near food and damages to packages of bread, rice, sugar, snacks and pet food with droppings inside.
“It’s pretty, pretty gross. I actually wasn’t aware of that,” said Elmer Centero, a shopper who had just finished up inside the Walmart.
Inside the Walmart on Friday, produce and meat sections were covered with tarps and refrigerators were roped off. Customers were still shopping in other parts of the store.
“In about 17 and a half years in public health, I don’t recall such a large establishment losing a food license, or at least temporarily,” said Graham McKeen, the director of Public and Environmental Health for IU.
According to the Marion County Health Dept., this Walmart is a repeat offender. It was cited for rodent activity in November 2022, as well.
The inspection report from Wednesday said droppings were found throughout the food areas from baking to pet food. The inspector also found a possible entry for the animals in the receiving area. A large gap was under one of the receiving doors.
”A mouse only needs a quarter of an inch to get into a space,” said McKeen.
The MCPHD report said the Walmart needs to eliminate the mice, clean all shelving with droppings, get rid of any entries for the rodents and get rid of all damaged food packaging.
McKee said that can be a big job.
”They can get into a lot of different places and it can be challenging to identify those places,” he said. “Sometimes you got to look for some of those tell tale signs of rubbing, or marking or droppings to see where you have hot spots.”
The health department was back for a follow up inspection on Friday. Inspectors with Food and Consumer Safety at MCPHD determined more progress is needed before the store’s food license will be reinstated. A recheck by the department is expected next week.
McKeen said it takes effort to get the problem fixed quickly.
”You probably could get it with a concerted effort and a good pest control professionals, you could probably get it to some level of acceptability,” McKeen said.
Bryor Newton, the owner of Critter Removal Indianapolis, said it could take more than a few days to completely get rid of the mice.
“You would have to exclude them and poison them and that process takes about two weeks depending on how many there are in there,” he said.
In a statement, Walmart said there was a third party inspection to address the matter.
The Walmart was also issued a $500 citation.
McKeen said it’s very important for people to report health concerns inside stores and other businesses.
”We want that, we appreciate that because, again, we’re just getting a snapshot and the public is really our eyes and ears,” he said.
If you have shopped at this Walmart and are worried about the food you bought, McKee said you should wash all produce and inspect items in packaging.
”If you’re concerned, when in doubt, throw it out,” McKee said.