New York — Last year, rats found in a Greenwich Village KFC and at several United Nations restaurants made the headlines among the Big Apple's TV stations and tabloid newspapers.
Now, the New York City Department of Health has turned its attention to the media itself.
Mayor Michael Bloomberg's health inspectors recently made surprise visits at numerous media employee restaurants.
The Bloomberg police headed for the both executive and employee dining halls. What they found was less than appetizing. The move by the city was first revealed by TV Newser last week.
Under New York statutes, a score of 28 health violation points could result in a facility being fined and or shut down. Though none of the media cafeterias got 28 points, some did come very close.
On the broadcast side, ABC's employee cafe at 47 W. 66th St. came in near the bottom of the list. It scored 20 violation points. According to the health inspectors, the conditions inside the Disney division's restaurant were far from "magical."
The Health department found "facility not vermin proof, harborage or conditions conducive to vermin exist, evidence of mice or live mice present in facility's food or non/food areas."
In the restaurant at ABC's executive offices at 77 W. 66th St. inspectors found "plumbing not properly installed; anti-siphonage or backflow prevention devices not provided where required; equipment or floor not properly drained, sewage disposal system in disrepair or not functioning properly."
NBC's commissary at Rockefeller Center, the legendary butt of jokes by Johnny Carson, was next at 14 points. The health department found that "non-food contact surface was improperly constructed . . . unacceptable material used. Non-food contact surface or equipment improperly maintained."
The NBC violation is curious, since in 2001 the commissary was at the center of a major controversy. The infamous anthrax attack at NBC headquarters occurred only yards away from the very same restaurant and the company's medical infirmary just across the hall.
As thousands of NBC staff ate away, the letter containing the anthrax laid unprotected on a desk in the NBC Security office just feet from the restaurant for more than three weeks.
While Tom Brokaw forced the network to spend two months and more than $10 million to sanitize and refurbish the Nightly News offices four floors below (where the infamous envelope was first delivered), word around NBC was that the cafeteria, close to where the anthrax was actually found, only got "a hosing down" by the company.
Right across the street, Time Inc.'s restaurant scored 11 points. "Sanitized equipment or utensils, including in-use food dispensing, improperly used or stored . . . food not protected from potential contamination during storage or preparation."
But, if you could munch at the nearby Time-Warner executive cafeteria on Columbus Circle, you would have seen a shining "0" violations, says the Health Department.
The only other "0" gold medal went to the employee dining room at Bloomberg LLP. on Lexington Ave. Coincidentally, it is the same company owned by Mayor Michael Bloomberg.
But surprisingly, none of the broadcast media topped the list of the worst employee Big Apple dining rooms.
Two of the worst places to dine were The New York Times, which came in at 27 points. It fell just one short of possibly being shut down and fined. Then came the giant Hearst Corporation. The publisher of Cosmopolitan scored 24 points.
Ironically, both are located in "glittering" new corporate headquarters less than three years old.
Mice and rats were found in both facilities, as well as water that could be contaminated. Cold food was stored too hot and hot food too cold, say the health inspectors.
However, most disturbing was what the city agency found in some other "employee" cafeterias, namely health and pharmaceutical giant Pfizer. The world headquarters of the maker of Viagra and Lipitor at 235 W. 42nd St. came in with a whopping "42 points" just last month.
The health department found rats, mice, and flying insects throughout the facility. The report did note that "Pfizer is working to address the situation."
If it didn't, it ran the risk of major fines and possibly being shuttered. One of Pfizer's competitors, Colgate-Palmolive, just four blocks away, only scored 8 points. Pfizer spokesman Chris Loder told NewsMax he was surprised and admittedly embarrassed by the health department findings: "We are disturbed by the information contained in the report . . . Nothing is more important to us at Pfizer than the health and well-being of our employees."
Loder could not explain how the situation inside the Pfizer facility had deteriorated to such a degree.
On Thursday, New York health officials told Newsmax that a re-inspection of Pfizer's facility last week resulted in a reduced score of "27."
While down from the controversial 42 points, Pfizer avoided punitive action by just 1 point.
Even with the "updated" inspection, Pfizer still ranks among the bottom of New York employee dining rooms.
Among some of the "better" media dining halls in Manhattan was CBS's "Station Break" in the basement of the CBS Broadcast Center at 524 W. 57th St.
The "Tiffany" network had only 9 points, but even those included sewage and plumbing violations.
None of the violations had been reported by the major media.
Perhaps some of the best off were the Fox employees.
They have no cafeteria and as such are forced to eat at a nearby Burger King, Subway, or McDonald's all of whom scored higher health ratings than the majority of the media's restaurants.
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