Last week, state officials closed down two cafeterias and five snack bars in the Pennsylvania Capitol building after finding an infestation of rodent droppings. The droppings, which were determined to have come primarily from mice, were found in the Capitol’s main cafeteria, where hundreds of state workers and visiting civilians eat every day.

mouse.jpgThe Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture ordered the sites immediately shut down after droppings were found in excess throughout food preparation equipment, utensil bins, cabinets, and elsewhere.

Inspectors found other violations as well. “The only dishwasher in the facility did not work properly,” said Agriculture Department spokesman Justin Fleming. “As a result, you can’t sanitize dishes, which is very important for reuse, particularly silverware.”  

According to Pennsylvania Auditor General Jack Wagner, the last time the cafeteria was inspected was November 2005, even though state law requires annual checks for proper health and sanitation. At the time of the last audit, health inspectors determined that the state “did not ensure that even the restaurants in the Capitol and other state buildings were licensed and inspected.”  

Over the last four years, Mr. Wagner had apparently received false assurances that inspections were conducted at the main cafeteria while state agencies quarreled over jurisdictional issues. “State agencies should not argue for four years over a health and safety issue while school children, senior citizens, other visitors and public servants can purchase meals that are prepared in kitchens that are unsafe.”

The cafeteria was closed indefinitely on December 17, and will not reopen until it passes inspection.