SA outraged while Food Lover's Market insists 'rat in salad' is not the norm
The practice of food retailers leaving food uncovered in their displays is widespread, but unacceptable, says a food science consultant with more than 40 years' experience in the food industry.
“It’s just a bad habit,” says Johannesburg-based Nigel Sunley, responding to the video of the rat nibbling on a salad in Food Lover’s Market’s Diepkloof Square branch.
Shot by a customer in December, the video clip went viral on social media at the weekend.
The salads on display were partially covered by cling wrap, clearly an ineffective deterrent to hungry rats.
“Rats eating exposed food is disgusting and a sign that something is badly wrong with a store’s hygiene protocols,” Sunley said.
Consumers were right to be outraged, Sunley said.
Rats can carry and contaminate food with their urine and faecal waste, exposing consumers to a range of diseases.
Food Lover's Market has said that an investigation has been launched to establish the source of the rodent problem.
Barring this incident, we are not aware of any other incidents of rats eating food on display at Food Lovers storesMirella Gastaldi
“We have a health and safety inspectorate that does regular audits ... the last inspection was in November,” the company said in a statement.
Responding to comments on Twitter that the staff member captured in the video clip seemed unconcerned about the rat nibbling on the salad, indicating that it was not an unusual sight, Food Lovers Holdings’ group legal advisor, Mirella Gastaldi, told TimesLIVE that the man was shocked at the time.
“While it may appear that he was quite casual in his response, our team has spoken to him and he has advised that he was somewhat in a state of shock, particularly since the incident was being filmed.
“In light of this, we believe that it is unfair to interpret or assume that the manner in which he reacted to the presence of the rat on the food display is a result of this being a regular or common occurrence,” she said.
“Barring this incident, we are not aware of any other incidents of rats eating food on display in our Diepkloof store or any other of our stores and we can categorically say that this incident is an exception as opposed to the norm.”
Rentokil, the company to which Food Lovers Market outsources its pest control, was tight-lipped about the incident on Monday.
“We are taking the incident very seriously, but won’t be issuing a statement until our investigation is complete,” said Rentokil’s marketing manager, Lemay Rogers.
Many commentators have pointed out on social media that widespread illegal dumping in the vicinity of the Diepkloof shopping centre has created a rat problem in the area.
Last June Shoprite found itself at the centre of a widespread consumer outrage when a video of a rat nibbling on a large gingerbread man in the bakery section of its Yeoville store went viral on social media.
The same video emerged again three months later, when Shoprite commented: “At the time, the affected stock was destroyed and surfaces hygienically cleaned.
“The existing pest control programme was stepped up and all possible measures taken to prevent any future chance of rodents entering the store from outside.
“This is being monitored regularly and management is in contact with the landlords and local municipality to improve the area surrounding the store.”