NEW YORK – A day before television cameras recorded large gray rats swarming across the floor of a fast-food restaurant, a city inspector found at least 76 fresh rodent droppings in the kitchen and basement, according to her written report.
The restaurant was told to clean up the mess, sanitize its equipment and hire exterminators, but it was allowed to remain open.
On Tuesday, health officials said the inspector who gave the passing grade to the restaurant was removed from field duty.
The health department also promised a thorough review to ensure that the city's 100 or so restaurant inspectors are going about their work correctly.
"They could always be better," Health Commissioner Thomas Frieden said.
The moves were prompted by the stomach-turning episode at a Manhattan KFC/Taco Bell last week.
After receiving a complaint about rats in the restaurant, the city dispatched the inspector, who found the droppings and "conditions conducive to the existence of pest life," according to her report.
A day later, video of large rats scrambling about the restaurant began appearing on TV and circulating on the Internet. The city dispatched a second inspector, who ordered the place closed.
Yum Brands, the parent company of KFC and Taco Bell, has called the situation unacceptable and an isolated incident.
"We want to reassure customers that our restaurants are clean and safe," the company said. "We will continue to work closely with the New York City Health Department, and if there's ever an issue we will immediately resolve it."
Frieden said the original inspector and a supervisor had failed to perform a full evaluation that would have triggered a closure under the city's procedures.
The city did not release the name of the first inspector but said she had been on the job since June. Department of Health and Mental Hygiene officials said she was still working but had been temporarily relieved of field duties.
The restaurant, in Greenwich Village, remained closed Tuesday.