we can’t talk about it

One of the most
fucked up things about working as private investigators for the
government is that when we find evidence of gross negligence by companies
or owners of companies, we can’t say a thing about it to anyone.

Right
now we’re investigating a restaurant chain. The owner himself never
bothered to get any food handler training. He just had this idea for a
new kind of restaurant and bought a cheap, dilapidated building, and set
up shop. The restaurant has exploded with popularity, and they have
many locations all over the largest city and surrounding cities of my
state and they’re spreading out over the United States with new locations opening.

What We’ve Found:

  • no
    one who works for the company, including the owner, has a food
    handler’s license or any training whatsoever in safe food handling
  • the
    drainage system for the warehouses and food prep buildings is old
    and/or dysfunctional and backs up constantly because “I didn’t know we
    needed to fix that,” says the owner, which means raw sewage and runoff from clean-up is pooling at
    every drainage grate in the buildings
  • the dumpsters on the
    properties aren’t far enough away from the food, aren’t under lock and
    key, and don’t have alcoves, which is a law here in my state and we have
    more relaxed regulations compared to other states
  • there is no book of
    standard company regulations and procedures, which means none of the
    employees have a set way of doing things
  • no one wears hair nets
  • there are no
    washing/rinsing stations for caustic chemicals
  • half the employees aren’t using gloves
  • no one is
    wearing aprons or anything over their shoes
  • there have been no
    inspections on the refrigerators and freezers because the warehouse and
    food prep buildings aren’t even registered or licensed as anything other
    than storage warehouses
  • there has been no spore testing or other safety checks for the same reason
  • there
    are no regulations or inspections or maintenance (other than mechanical
    maintenance) on the vehicles transporting the food and no testing for
    spores or temperature of the refrigeration units on the trucks
  • there
    is no time limit for food left out unrefrigerated, so there are piles
    and piles of food just sitting around on the floor and tables in areas
    where raw sewage is pooling just a few feet away
  • they don’t use a
    professional pesticide service and instead are just “taking care of it
    ourselves,” and it’s likely (we need further testing but it’s difficult
    to determine whether pesticides are from the farms or the building)
    they’re just walking in and spraying down the rooms with pesticide and
    not bothering to cover the food
  • the owner is paying the
    employees well, but they don’t get healthcare or sick leave, so there’s a
    good chance a lot of these people are coming in sick
  • everything
    listed above covers only the warehouses and food prep buildings, but
    the restaurants themselves are well-maintained and pass inspection with
    flying colors, so the average person walking into the restaurant would
    have no idea their food had been lying in filth before it ever got to
    the restaurant

We can’t even tell our other family
members the name of this restaurant chain, and if we do, not only do we
get jail time and fines and our PI licenses revoked, but all the
evidence against this company gets thrown out.

One of the hopes I
have for the next generation that takes over the US is that they
overhaul the legal system, because right now it’s set up to protect the
criminals. The #1 priority should be keeping millions of people from
getting sick and/or dying from food poisoning, but instead the priority
is making sure the company’s name isn’t besmirched and they can quietly
clean things up while still staying in business.

We’ve been
working on this case for almost two years, and all the owner of the company
has to do is show that he’s *trying* to work on fixing all the problems,
but “trying” simply means scheduling changes in the future, throwing
some money at it, and showing you have a plan of action.

The only
thing that’s changed from the list above is the employees now wear
gloves and aprons, but everything else is still happening even though
most of it was discovered two years ago.

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