Shopping at the Walmart has been part of Jessica Giles’ family routine since the store opened. She’s never seen anything like it at the store before and it added to her shock seeing rats in the store.
On the grocery shopping list, rodents are the last thing most people are looking to check off, but a Winter Haven woman got the surprise of her shopping life in a close encounter with the animals in the meat department at the Walmart at 7450 Cypress Gardens Blvd. “Me and my mom went over there at the meat and then we saw a rat running up and down the meat,” Giles recalled.
She described the rat as about the size of one of the steaks for sale on the rack. “It was shocking and I knew nobody would believe me, so I took a picture of it,” Giles said, “[and I] told my mom I wasn’t leaving without one.”
She described the scene as chaotic as she watched an employee chase yet another rat with a broom and a box. “We went to the checkout and that’s when we saw one get caught by the deli,” Giles said. “And the checkout lady said there was multiple — two of them. That was pretty disgusting.”
We have obtained previous inspection documents by the Florida Department of Agriculture at the store from June. The report mentions insects and several other violations, but no rodents.
Walmart spokesperson Kayla Whaling released the following statement when contacted for comment:
“This is unacceptable and we take matters like this seriously. We have dedicated resources to ensure our customers can feel confident knowing we are committed to providing safe, quality food. We are monitoring the issue closely and actively working with our third party pest control company and Department of Agriculture to help prevent this from happening again.”
Walmart said they store discarded any affected meat and cleaned the entire area where the rats were seen.
For Giles and her family, that’s not quite enough. “I mean, I know it happens everywhere, but once you see it, it kind of scars you for life,” she said.
After receiving information about the issue, a Florida Department of Agriculture inspector visited the location Thursday. Department officials said no signs of rodents were found at the store where the picture was taken.
“However, at the Walmart at 355 Cypress Gardens Boulevard, the inspector did observe signs that rodents have been present,” according to Dept. of Agriculture spokesperson Sterling Ivey. “The observations did not indicate recent rodent activity and the store cleaned while our inspector was on site and said their exterminator has already treated the store.”
Ivey said the second store received a “Poor rating grade” after the inspection. The new rating will require a re-inspection within the next 3 weeks, Ivey said. “No products appear to affected and no stop sales were issued.”