Photos at a Dollar General store in Texas show evidence of a rat infestation.
It's the latest Dollar General store to face problems with rodents — and resulting health hazards.
Dollar General has also been cited for clutter, and resulting fire escape hazards, at its stores.
Early this year, a Dollar General employee named Timothy was spending his working hours cleaning up the retailer's stores in East Texas.
At a store in Hutto, about 28 miles northeast of Austin, he found a disgusting scene: Rats had taken over the back room, chewing through bags of pet food and leaving their waste on jars of baby food. Photos obtained by Insider show dead rats, products with holes chewed through them, and droppings from the rodents at the store.
"The manager would want you to sort through it, and said 'Even if it's contaminated, put it out,'" Timothy said. "I did not feel right doing that." Timothy asked that Insider not use his full name, citing fear of retaliation from Dollar General.
Timothy called the local health department. In March, an inspector suspended the store's food permit and ordered the store to throw away its packaged food and beverage stock. The report noted the "strong odor of decay" in the storeroom, according to a copy of the report Insider obtained from the Williamson County and Cities Health District. The inspector also found bags of cat food damaged by rats on the sales floor.
"At Dollar General, the health and safety of our employees is of the highest priority, and we are
committed to providing a clean and pleasant environment for employees and customers," Dollar General said after Insider sent the company photos from the Hutto store. "In addition to various cleaning protocols, we also have existing relationships with pest control companies to provide routine services to prevent and, when necessary, respond to any issues should they arise."
The Hutto store is far from the only Dollar General operation to face problems with rats. Stores in Maryland and Massachusetts have had to clean up rodent infestations after being cited by local authorities. A warehouse in Bessemer, Alabama, also closed temporarily last summer after rats got into food at the distribution facility, local TV station CBS42 reported at the time.
Rodents were also one of the hazards that Dollar General employees cited as they asked the company's shareholders to audit the retailer's safety policies for its workers. The proposal won approval from shareholders in May. Employees have also asked the company to investigate other hazards for workers, such as stores so cluttered that emergency escape routes are blocked.
At the Hutto store, rats were a longstanding issue.
"They were dealing with that problem for over a year," Timothy told Insider. He left Dollar General this summer, citing the rat issue as well as management's treatment of employees. At the time he quit, Timothy was working at several different Dollar General stores as part of a team in charge of cleaning up stores before annual inventory checks and visits by company higher-ups.
Rodent infestations have hit other chains
Other dollar store chains have also faced problems with rats. The US Food and Drug Administration found last year that a Family Dollar warehouse in West Memphis, Arkansas, was infested by thousands of rodents, CNN reported. As a result, Family Dollar had to temporarily close more than 400 stores and voluntarily recalled food products that could have been contaminated by rodents at the warehouse. Residents in New York's Queens neighborhood are asking shoppers to boycott a Dollar Tree store, citing a rat infestation, the New York Daily News reported on last week.
Dollar Tree, which also owns Family Dollar, did not respond to Insider's request for comment.
On Tiktok, Dollar General workers and customers have also complained about products contaminated by rodents.
One user posted a video in February showing what he said is rat urine and feces on the plastic wrap of a pack of bottled water he bought from Dollar General. A Dollar General representative he spoke with on the phone denied that the retailer had any responsibility for the contamination, according to the video.
"Isn't it the responsibility of the store to make sure your products aren't covered in biohazardous materials?" the poster asks in the video. He did not immediately respond to a request for details on the incident from Insider.
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