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Rats Run Wild at New York KFC/Taco Bell


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Source: http://news.aol.com/topnews/articles...00010000000001


Rats Run Wild at New York KFC/Taco Bell



NEW YORK (Feb. 24) - The parent company of KFC and Taco Bell -- still smarting from last year's E. coli scare -- has been forced back into damage-control mode after television cameras caught rats scampering around a restaurant floor.


"Nothing is more important to us than the health and safety of our customers. This is completely unacceptable and is an absolute violation of our high standards," Yum Brands said in a statement.


The franchise owner "is actively addressing this issue," the statement said, adding that the restaurant will remain closed until the problem is "completely resolved."


A TV crew discovered the rat infestation and began filming through a window of the building early Friday. About a dozen rats were filmed racing around the restaurant's floors, playing with each other and sniffing for food as they dashed around tables and children's high chairs.


The restaurant was not open at the time, and the company later said construction in the basement on Thursday appeared to have stirred up the rats.


Onlookers could not keep their eyes away from the jaw-dropping sight - a gang of urban vermin invading a restaurant that had been taking people's chicken and taco orders just a day earlier. Video of the rats was seen around the world, disseminated on TV stations and the Internet.


"They should handcuff them and throw the dirty rats in jail," cabbie Wilson Paul said as he pulled over to gawk.


Rats have long been a problem in New York City, with such a dense population and such a large and readily available food supply for the rodents. They are frequently seen scampering through subway tunnels, rooting through trash, dashing across parks and burrowing into the walls of apartment buildings.


Greenwich Village tends to be a happy home for them because of its combination of older buildings and a tangle of subway lines converging just below street level.


Still, it is rare to see so many rats congregating in one place in such public view.


The city Department of Health had inspectors at the site on Friday for hours, and by midday had posted a sign that read "CLOSED."


"Today, this establishment had serious unsanitary conditions," said Carol Feracho, a senior health inspector. "There were issues with vermin throughout."


She said the infestation was "coming from the building," with "openings" that allowed the vermin to enter. She provided no other details.


There was no answer at the phone number displayed in neon on the store window below the words "We Deliver." Department of Health spokeswoman Sara Markt said agency records list the franchise owner as ADF Fifth Operating Corp. The owner could not be reached for comment, despite numerous efforts.


Joel Cohen, who lives in the building next to the restaurant, had a graphic view of the situation.


"I'm living over the place that is feeding the rats of New York City," said Cohen, who works in real estate. "This place is a disaster. They throw their rubbish in the doorways. It's loaded up with food in bags that are not tied, and the rats have eaten through the bags."


Gregory Moore, a retired city administrator who lives on a nearby street, called the situation "pretty horrendous. The rats have made a grand play here."


Last week, it was reported that Taco Bell sales had slumped after the widely publicized E. coli scare, but that international sales helped Yum Brands in the company's fourth quarter.


The E. coli outbreak late last year caused more than 70 Taco Bell customers to become ill. Federal officials said in December that the most likely source of the illnesses was lettuce. Taco Bell took precautions by changing its suppliers of lettuce and cheese in New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Delaware.


Yum Brands stock closed Friday at $60.51, down 55 cents.


Associated Press Writer Pat Milton contributed to this report.

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