Friday, December 11, 2009
Rats control Chinatown at night while the Department of Health does nothing
by Larry Geller
As seen on TV. Those rats you may have seen on TV news in Hawaii are still there.
Concerned that our state Department of Health was doing little if anything to control the Chinatown rat population, I asked the FDA if the feds had any jurisdiction.
My inquiry was routed to their public affairs office in San Francisco, who responded:
FDA does not have jurisdiction. Retail and foodservice facilities are regulated primarily by states/local governments.
The only other U.S. Government entity that might have some jurisdiction is the Occupational Safety & Health Administration (Dept. of Labor), if there is an employee health and safety issue involved.
Since many (most?) of the vendors leasing space in the Chinatown markets (at least two of which are City-owned) are family-run businesses, it’s unlikely that there will be OSHA complaints.
The extent of the city’s and state’s failure to protect our food supply is visible not only in the initial video revealing rats cavorting over bananas that would be offered for sale the next day, but in subsequent coverage by television crews. Education should be part of the public health program, yet in this KITV video we learn that one vendor in the rat-infested Kekaulike Market mops the floor every night with Clorox, providing a clean environment for the overnight rat invaders.
No DOH inspectors are prowling the market (day or night), no exterminators are cleaning up the infestation. It’s hard to discern if any state agency is stepping forward to do anything. Who has said, “We will clean this up?”
Yesterday, KHON reporter Andrew Pereira traced polluted ogo from a filthy Ala Moana canal to a vendor’s shop in city-owned Maunakea Marketplace. DOH’s response, as given in the KHON story, was that they can do nothing. From the KHON story:
After first publicizing a video shot by Hawaii blogger Larry Geller that shows rats infesting another market in Chinatown, the latest KHON2 investigation raises new concerns about food safety.
The deputy director of the state Department of Health says it’s another case of buyer beware.
“We emphasis that both stores and the public should buy fresh food from reliable sources,” said Laurence Lau. “The second thing we would say is people should thoroughly wash fresh food before they eat it.”
Lau said there is no doubt the drainage canal at the beach park is polluted with animal waste and other contaminants. [pic of Laurence Lau from KHON video]
“It’s another case of buyer beware” ??? How am I, as a buyer, to beware, exactly? Why do I, as a taxpayer, pay salaries to the DOH?? What I want to hear is that DOH is doing something.
Isn’t it time to put some pressure on our state administration to reform our Department of Health into the protective agency it is supposed to be?
Thanks, Larry, for persevering on the issue of Health & Cleanliness. I have always thought that Mayor, City Council & State's priorities were not in the best interest of the citizens. How appalling!
Yes, thanks for sticking with the story until we will have a resolve. My resolution is that we should simply boycott Chinatown. If the government is not cleaning up, the missing customer base will give them enough time to think about it and maybe even work to diminish the infestation. They will never totally eradicate this. I think it was two years ago, when a lot of stray cats at Pearl Harbor where collected and removed. Within weeks you would see the rats boldly climb up trees in the daytime even. Cats would probably be a solution too...