TV exposé prompts changes at L.A. market

02/12/2007 12:00:00 AM
Tom Burfield

(Feb. 12) The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors has given the county’s public health director until Feb. 21 to come up with a long-term plan to ensure the sanitary operation of the Seventh Street Produce Market.

The mandate comes after a hidden-camera investigation by a local NBC-TV affiliate in early February, in which rats were shown scampering through the market, vendors urinating near produce cartons, filthy water gushing from an open pipe onto produce and workers leaving a restroom with no hot water and then handling produce.

Product from the market is used by area grocery stores and restaurants, including IHOP and the Johnny Rockets chain, as well as independent eateries in the Los Angeles area.

Water that smelled like raw sewage was splashing onto boxes of produce, according to the TV report. A water analysis found it to contain high levels of E. coli, fecal coliform and listeria, the station reported.

At its Feb. 6 meeting, the board of supervisors chastised Jonathan Fielding, Los Angeles County public health director, and ordered him to return to the board in about two weeks with a plan of action for the facility.

Johnny Rockets issued a statement that the company would no longer buy from the market. IHOP told the station that workers thoroughly wash all produce before using it.

Some involved with the market, including a spokesman for the owner, a real estate development firm, welcomed the investigation.

“This is an ongoing battle that we’ve had, trying to get … some of the tenants to keep up their end of the bargain,” said Michael Bustamante, spokesman for market owner Meruelo Maddux Properties.

The company has done what it can to maintain sanitary conditions, he said, but theft of faucets in restrooms and of traps to snare rodents is rampant.



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