Mice cause concern over cleanliness

BENSALEM, Pa. - December 2, 2009

Apparently, thousands of mice are living between the walls of the Bensalem Wholesale Food Warehouse and Big Head's Bar, which are now both shut down by Bensalem Township.

"It was sickening, it was absolutely sickening," Walsh said.

Jerry Walsh, who owns Big Head's, says the mice were attracted by blood seeping into the walls from his next door neighbor's meat shop.

Needless to say, it's made for some figurative bad blood between them.

The owner of the warehouse declined to speak to Action News' cameras, but insists he's not to blame.

According to Walsh, though, the problem goes back months, if not years with a persistent stink, he says he always thought was rotting meat. Finally fed up by the foul odor, Walsh tore down the wall last week and found far more than he expected.

Walsh found countless dead mice and evidence of many more

So this past weekend, Walsh closed his doors and called in the authorities. But as he found out firsthand, the problem may not simply be within the nooks of the walls, it may be within the cracks of the system.

Several different agencies, each with different jurisdictions, inspect these two businesses, and none noticed the problem until now.

When asked 'Why is it just now we're doing something about it?' Harry Phender, an inspector with the Bucks County Department of Health, said, "Well, that I can't answer."

His agency inspects Big Head's, but not the Food Warehouse. Why? Because the warehouse doesn't serve food that's "ready to eat." According to the Department of Health, it used to, but surrendered its license after a laundry list of county violations. Now, it's inspected by the Department of Agriculture, which in September of this year found several violations, some of them repeat offenses.

The agency was called just yesterday (Tuesday) following a complaint after some of the walls had been torn down. Inspectors found feces which it deemed an imminent health risk. Still, neither agency shut either business down. It was instead the township, which closed the doors until the walls are fixed and even that is posing a problem.

"Well its making it a little bit more of a challenge because we need to make sure we get to the proper authorities to get it rectified," property manager Joe Basilio said.

Important to note that though the Department of Agriculture did not find evidence of an infestation in September, they did find several other critical repeat violations, for which they are pursuing fines. But the fact remains that if the businesses were to reopen, and the mice remain out of view, as they apparently have for some time, both could continue to operate, off the radar of their respective inspectors.

The bottom line is cleanliness comes back to the customer.

If you see something, you are urged to report it.

LINKS:
MONTGOMERY COUNTY HEALTH DEPARTMENT:
http://health.montcopa.org/health/site/default.asp

CHESTER COUNTY HEALTH DEPARTMENT:
http://dsf.chesco.org/HEALTH/site/default.asp

BUCKS COUNTY HEALTH DEPARTMENT:
http://bucks.pa.gegov.com/bucks/index.cfm

PHILADELPHIA HEALTH DEPARTMENT:
http://www.phila.gov/Health/

DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE:
http://www.agriculture.state.pa.us/portal/server.pt/community/pennsylvania_department_of_agriculture/10297

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