Closed: Too Much Rodent Poo At This Chicago Whole Foods

Over 100 rodent droppings in one cooler alone is too many, says the Chicago Department of Public Heath… and so the Lincoln Park Whole Foods has been closed until the management can eliminate the infestation. Ick.

The Chicago Tribune says:

We have another walk-through tomorrow morning, and obviously we’re working around the clock,” Kate Klotz, Whole Foods’ Midwest regional public relations specialist, told The Stew on Thursday. Klotz said they hope to have the store re-opened by tomorrow afternoon but that’s not definite.

The inspection that resulted in the closing was a follow-up inspection. Inspectors found mouse feces all over the premises as well as a dead mouse on a glueboard trap.

Mice, supermarkets and food safety [Chicago Tribune](Thanks, Dena!)


Edit Your Comment

  1. trogam says:

    Its all natural though!

  2. chrisexv6 says:

    Blame the victim – its their fault for stocking and selling food!!

  3. VeryPlainJane says:

    A Whole Food in my area (kansas city) was closed down over a year ago for the same problem. They have yet to reopen.

  4. Rufdawg says:

    dirty hippies

  5. FLConsumer says:

    Aww…. c’mon. It doesn’t get more “organic” and “all natural” than that!

  6. illtron says:

    In fairness, saying there’s “Over 100 rodent droppings in one cooler alone” is kind of sensationalistic. It doesn’t take a whole lot of rodents to create 100 droppings. If you’ve ever seen mouse turds, where there’s one, there’s usually a few hundred. That said, mice are attracted to food, and they’ve got plenty of that.

    At least they’re trying. If it probably wasn’t a health violation in itself, they could do like the bodegas do and get a cat.

  7. chiieddy says:

    They’ll kill mice on a glueboard trap but won’t sell lobster, because it’s cruel. Hrm…

  8. modenastradale says:

    I don’t know if anyone else has observed this, but I believe the Whole Foods Market chain has some of the nastiest grocery stores out there. Have you ever sat down to eat at their tables, only to find them covered in ages-old smeared goo? Or have you ever tried to visit one of their bathrooms? Just disgusting!

    I’ve been to a lot of Whole Foods Markets in various parts of the country, including NY, LA, SF, and Chicago. They’re always nasty, although the urban stores are far worse than the suburban stores.

    For some reason, cleanliness just isn’t part of Whole Foods’ mission.

  9. sleze69 says:

    Apparently rat poison isn’t organic.

    (God I hate that word – organic = HAS CARBON!!!)

  10. phospholipid says:

    @Rufdawg: I KNOW RIGHT?

    Sucks for them, its on the news, that means major loss of business :[

  11. I guess the rat doodie is justification for the higher prices.

  12. modenastradale says:

    @sleze69: Actually, the use of the word “organic” to refer to natural methods predates the term “organic” as applied to chemistry. Who knew!

  13. am84 says:

    @Rufdawg: My thoughts exactly! That place is always so disgusting – the bathrooms alone are enough for several health department violations.

  14. varro says:

    Whole Foods Lincoln Park – We’re Now Rat-Free!

  15. Marshfield says:


    We have a very nice Whole Foods in Bellevue WA. Clean, well stocked, with coffee bar (of course! It’s Seattle!) and deli.

    The only problem is that it’s on a busy corner with difficult access if you’re travelling from the west or the north.

  16. failurate says:

    @illtron: My hamster could top that in 1/2 an hour. Rodents are just pooping machines.

  17. Anita Ham Sandwich says:

    I’m betting it was a Wild Oats turned Whole Foods…I’ve noticed that the original Whole Foods stores seem very clean, but the Wild Oats stores that have been converted to Whole Foods…not so much.

  18. Wormfather is Wormfather says:

    @illtron: You and I both know that if this was any other establishment you’d be over them like white on rice.

    Me, I love my whole foods, but this is naaaaasty.

  19. Japheaux says:

    Subsequent testing showed the feces contained salmonella traces from the jalapenos and tomatoes.

    I think this falls under the ‘I really don’t want to know the truth’ heading. I can only imagine what happens in most grocery stores after hours.

  20. AwesomeShambles says:

    I tried to stop at this store on my way home last night and the employees were in front of the store handing out $5 coupons (and trying to block the view of the NEON GREEN public safety violation sign.)

  21. stevegoz says:

    There’s just something about upscale grocery stores in the 606 — a few years back the Treasure Island on the Gold Coast was closed down for a slew of health code violations, including vermin.

  22. MadameX says:

    Whole Foods? Dirty? Not in Arizona. The one they recently built in Chandler is by far the most impressive grocery store I’ve ever seen. Even the old one in Tempe is spotless.

    I’ve been in three in California that we equally nice, and one in Washington State.

    I’m actually shocked to hear that they’re not the same way elsewhere.

  23. mk says:

    @MeredithK02: nope, not a Wild Oats conversion. And actually, usually, a very clean store with minimal amounts of dreadlocks, tattoos and butt crack (something frequently seen at the Chicago – Lakeview Whole Foods).

  24. mgy says:

    At least they caught the one in the glue trap.

  25. MissTicklebritches says:

    Okay, so what’s the right amount of mouse poo? Is it possible to have too little mouse poo?

  26. lalaland13 says:

    Wait, is this the Whole Foods Obama shops at for his arugula or whatever that was? Oh gosh, conspiracy! Someone is trying to kill him with rat poo.

    I’m such a bumpkin. I’ve never even been to Whole Foods. All we have down here is Half Foods and Quarter Foods.

  27. Anita Ham Sandwich says:

    @melking: Wait, no dreadlocks? I call bs, then! :D I wouldn’t recognize the Boulder Whole Foods without the trifecta you posted! Could the “droppings” have just been carob chips improperly stored?

  28. drdom says:

    @MadameX: Whole Foods? Dirty? Not in Arizona.

    The Whole Foods in Milwaukee is immaculate. I haven’t seen a cleaner, better kept store.

    Only a mile West from there, the corner food stores are required to keep one claw on the Racoon so that shop owners don’t try to pass off alley cats as “Southern Meats”.

  29. Shadowfire says:

    Yea, do we have any idea how many mice/rats there are? Don’t get me wrong, having rodents at all is bad, and the store should have been more vigilant in cleaning up after it, but really guys, there’s only so much you can do about a rodent in a store. We had a couple squirrels in ours for months. You call an exterminator, all they can do is set up traps. You have to wait until the animal gets caught, and just spend extra time checking the nooks and crannies for “clean-ups.”

  30. A.W.E.S.O.M.-O says:

    @failurate: Yup. I have a chinchilla and he poops literally every second he’s awake. He doesn’t even have to strain and try to poop like other animals–whether he’s laying down or running on his wheel, poop just continuously falls out of his ass all day.

  31. thewriteguy says:

    Whole Poos

  32. woodenturkey says:

    Hey Ben is on NPR right now!!!

  33. Cyclokitty says:


    Well, that’s a relief! I hate it when I’ve been hornswoggled at the corner store. Cat just doesn’t compare to raccoon.

    I live in an apartment building that’s built on top of a grocery store and a mall. You’d think the mice would be satisfied with the pickings downstairs, but I’ve found several mice in my place (and have heard the screams from new neighbours who’ve found their own miceys).

    But my favourite encounter was leaving a restaurant and having a large (LARGE!) rat (RAT!) cross my path. He had a chicken leg in his mouth. I wonder how many years bad luck that is?

  34. illtron says:

    @Wormfather is Wormfather: I agree it’s nasty. But it’s an uphill battle sometimes.

    If you’ve ever been on the DC Metro and the NYC Subway, you’ll notice rats all over the tracks in NYC and none in DC, despite the fact that DC has plenty of rat problems up on the ground. The difference is that DC strictly enforces the no food rule on the Metro.

    There are no rodents where there’s nothing for them to eat. That’s hard to do in a grocery store. I give them credit for doing what they can, but they’re probably in for a fight. The problem might not even be with the Whole Foods. It might actually be very clean and they might actually be getting overflow rodents from an adjacent building. If that’s the case, good luck.

  35. syndprod says:

    Hey… it that the Whole Foods location that they shopped at in Top Chef 4 in Chicago? I know there’s 5 or so in Chicago, but since Lincoln Park is a fairly trendy area, I thought may be the one they used.

  36. Jupichan says:

    Hm. The Whole Foods in my city (Pittsburgh) is quite clean from what I recall of it. While the bathroom was small (only one stall), I had no issue with its cleanliness.

    Tis a shame about this particular location though. This publicity is gonna kill their business for some time.

  37. pixiegirl1 says:

    Eww! Why don’t they have mouse traps? What grocery store in this day and age doesn’t have basic rodent/bug traps?

  38. MayorBee says:

    100 rat droppings are too many. That last dropping is the straw that broke the camel’s back. 99 I can see, but 100? That’s an inordinate number of droppings.

  39. velvetjones says:

    @pixiegirl1: that’s what the glueboards are. it’s a horse a piece as far as traps are concerned, the spring traps get blood everywhere and the glue boards are pretty inhumane, not so much if you poison the bait.

  40. KarmaChameleon says:

    @MadameX: Seriously. I shop at the Tempe one all the time and have always seen it spotless.

    Hell even the ones back home in NY are clean. Not sure wtf is going on everywhere else.

  41. Matt says:

    How would you like to have the job of inspector who count’s rodent poo quantity. I can imagine this CSI-esque scene:
    We have to wait for the quantity analysis to come back from Jim.
    It’s official. There are 100 poos in this cooler. Shut er down boys!
    Cops in black jackets and sunglasses descend onto the market.
    *CSI Screaming/Opening Music Scene*

  42. Sugarless says:

    @MeredithK02: Ummm, no. Original Whole Foods stores have had this very problem for years. Either the infestation wasn’t this serious or publicized.
    This is not because they bought out Wild Oats.

    All grocery stores face this problem, but I expect more from Whole Foods especially after the killed one of their major competitors and the amout of money spent on marketing products are organic, pesticide free and free range.

  43. colflesh says:

    The Whole Foods frequented in Top Chef Season 4 was the Lakeview location.

  44. AnneCA says:

    I was surprised they used glue traps, because they are said to be inhumane. A little Googling tells me that activists claim Whole Foods has previously promised that they will not use glue traps. So no doubt PETA et al will get on them about this incident. I would guess that Whole Foods probably has a no-gluetraps written policy, so someone locally violated it here. Poor management — which is consistent with the idea that they couldn’t get this right even though it was a *follow-up* inspection.

  45. GregGates says:

    Glue traps are pretty lame. At my first official job (plant nursery and crafts store) the store contracted a pest guy who used them all over the place. When I would move some skids and see the stuck mice flailing around I would take them out and stomp them under a box.

    Another reason not to buy their $6 pineapples.

  46. RabbitDinner says:

    I’m allergic to cats, and they scare the crap out of me (always afraid they’ll get pissed at me and gouge my eyes out) but boy do my friend Rob’s cats earn their keep by hunting down the vermin. mad respect

  47. hilighter says:

    @syndprod: The Whole Foods on Top Chef was the one in Boystown, not in Lincoln Park. The new one (Boystown) is much larger and really well organized.

    @MeredithK02: Nope, this has been a Whole Foods for at least 12 years….was the first one in Chicago.

  48. DePaulBlueDemon says:

    I used to work there! (No kidding…) Oh, how disgusting. I could say more, but I won’t…

  49. DePaulBlueDemon says:

    Oh, and another thing… I belive (although I could be wrong) Whole Foods has a “humane” rodent elimination policy, meaning that they don’t use traps or glue mats, etc. to get rid of pesky rodents. I wonder how they will deal with this…

  50. dry-roasted-peanuts says:

    @RabbitDinner: When I was growing up, we had this cat on the farm named Sylvester (guess what he looked like). That cat was an amazing mouser. We’d let him out early in the morning and usually an hour later he would be sitting next to the door with a dead mouse in front of him. As he got older he started having tooth problems. He couldn’t eat very well and he started to look pretty bat. We took him to the vet and they pulled all his teeth. We switched him over to canned cat food and he started to fill back out and looked years younger. One morning I’m walking by the door and I see him sitting next to it. I go to let him in and lo and behold, there was a sopping wet dead mouse at his feet. The only thing I could think was how crazy it was that he caught and killed a mouse without any teeth and then how awful it would be to be a mouse and to be gummed to death.

  51. psychocellochica says:

    Most grocery stores actually have a rodent problem. With so much food in one small area, it’s like a smorgasbord for the little buggers. Also, very few WF locations have someone there with the lights on 24/7 which means plenty of time for the little buggers to explore.

    My girlfriend is a supervisor at a Whole Foods and her store is tearing out their bulk food section because it’s like a giant “mice welcome” sign. They can’t use poison traps, and snap traps are just a bad idea with customers poking around. Part of my gf’s job is actually to clean the registers and she says that they always have to vacuum out mouse droppings because they’ll go in after little tiny bits and pieces that fall down through the scanner and the seams around it.

    Of course, customers are flipping out that bulk is going, but I personally would rather buy it prepackaged than find out that isn’t a grain of fancy brown rice…

    And I wonder what percentage of the people freaking out about this actually think to wash the lids of canned foods before they open them. You never know what bacteria is lurking on the OUTSIDE (which is suddenly inside when you use your crusty can opener and let the lid fall in).

  52. MrEvil says:

    Mice are pretty good at gnawing through most materials. Not much you can do about them getting in a grocery store. Mice and rats are determined enough to find any avenue of entry. Humans are really the only animal that gets easily discouraged.

    The problem is Whole Foods being “organic” won’t use pesticides.

  53. bohemian says:

    In Whole Foods defense they were organic free range rodent turds.

    I avoid bulk like the plague, same with salad bars. There are just too many fellow humans who have no concept of hygiene or proper food handling.

  54. thelushie says:

    @MeredithK02: Well, I used to really like carob. Thanks…

    @RabbitDinner: My cat would love nothing more than a few mice showing up. I think the stuffed ones are boring him a little. Still the idea of presenting me with a real dead rodent (as opposed to being presented with a stuffed not real rodent, which happens alot) is nothing something I really want.

    @psychocellochica: Bulk bins are disgusting. In the town I did my undergrad in, there was a great little organic foods store. I LOVED the bins, until I saw a person eat out of it. Never again!

  55. B says:

    What I want to know, is what would the acceptable amount of rodent poo be, exactly?

  56. TechnoDestructo says:


    1517, “serving as an organ or instrument,” from L. organicus, from Gk. organikos “of or pertaining to an organ,” from organon “instrument” (see organ). Sense of “from organized living beings” is first recorded 1778 (earlier this sense was in organical, c.1450). Meaning “free from pesticides and fertilizers” first attested 1942.

    See, “free from pesticides and fertilizers” cannot actually predate pesticides and fertilizers.

  57. Speak says:

    That’s a shame. I’ve been to this particular Whole Foods, and it was one of the nicer grocery stores I’ve been to. I think Chicago (like most cities?) has a tremendous rat problem so it doesn’t surprise me that they’re getting mice in the store. Having had a mouse problem in my home, it seems the only thing one can do, if not to use poison, is to plug up all possible mouse entry points (and those suckers are small!) and not leave any food out. Or, Whole Foods could try leaving a bunch of jar-and-coin traps around the store.

  58. parrotuya says:

    Whole Foods’ name is quite appropriate. Instead of one piece of rat shit, you get all of the rat shit. All 100+ pieces of it. Thus ‘All Foods’ would be a better name for the store but ‘Whole Foods’ sounds better. I wonder how many consultants it took to come up with that one! And by the way, waterboard the remaining rats!

  59. EyeHeartPie says:

    I don’t know about other Whole Foods, but the one I go to (world headquarters in Austin, TX) is definitely very clean and very nice inside. Of course, it is the world headquarters, so it had better be clean and well managed :p

  60. timsgm1418 says:

    @A.W.E.S.O.M.-O: and you bought this pet on purpose?

  61. timsgm1418 says:

    @thelushie: our regular grocery store used to have a bulk bin section, the only thing I ever bought there was kitty litter, people always let their kids run around unsupervised and I just know their nasty little fingers were in the bin…

  62. rdldr1 says:

    Its hilarious that this is Chicago’s flagship Whole Foods, the first one in the city. I was even in that plaza that day it first closed at the Best Buy next door buying a mini fridge. I passed by it and didnt even realize that it was closed! Oh man, I’d rather get my rat dropping-exposed food from the ethnic grocery store down the street!

  63. fencepost says:

    I think it’s improved but the Whole Foods in Palatine, IL (northwest suburbs) used to have a seafood counter that I hated to walk past – stank of fish. I’m not sure what it was, but “fresh” wasn’t one of the terms I’d have applied.

    This was the case for probably over a year; we never bought food in there anyway – just some kind of “natural” shampoo that my wife favored.

  64. JohnMc says:

    Poo is organic is it not? So what’s the problem??

  65. Citron says:

    I used to work at a Whole Foods and we had a mouse/rat problem as well. We used Mice Cubes (which are small clear humane traps) at our store, however — which are pathetically ineffective. They would release the rodents in some field away from the store, but when you have large quantities of food, mice and such are always going to be a problem. This is why all product is supposed to be stored with a decent clearance off the ground.

    Oh, the nostalgia of zeroing out $20/lb cheese because some mouse had crawled into the case and gnawed halfway through the slice . . . Even though I saw personally the little teethmarks in the cheese, it never dissuaded me from buying it myself. I just made sure I wrapped up my own.

    I can’t say that I’m a “fan” of Whole Foods, but I also don’t think that rodent problems are a unique syndrome of Whole Foodism or organic grocery stores.

    . . . although Mice Cubes really are lame when there’s a big old hunk of cheese RIGHT THERE to munch on.

  66. zyodei says:

    Ah, that branch is all full of yuppies anyway. Definitely the worst branch in all of Chicago, IMHO. Ashland and Belmont FTW-bulk herbs and spices kick ass.

    It truth…I’d still rather eat rat shit all day that any of the weird toxic chemicals in your average hot pocket or mcgarbage gaudily packaged horrorshow. If you eat rat shit, you know it’s bad right away. Chemicals taste great when you eat them, but they build up gradually, and bam, down the line you find yourself diseased, bankrupt..and then dead. Like most Americans nowadays it seems.

    Seriously, if you read around a little bit, you will realize that no human society in history has lived with as high a rate of chronic disease than we do. You don’t really know the meaning of “Whole Paycheck” until you get a hospital bill.

  67. A.W.E.S.O.M.-O says:

    @timsgm1418: Well he was just so cute. And he doesn’t smell, so there’s that.

  68. radiochief says:

    But they’re organic!

  69. peggyhill says:


  70. trujunglist says:

    Bleh, shopped there a few times back in the day. Pardon me while I throw away my lunch.

  71. colflesh says:
  72. Nick_Bentley says:

    I worked in the food service industry for a major chain before doing an Internet business the last 12 years. I will tell you they screwed up. There is no manager who would let this happen under any circumstances. A plant or restaurant manager is accountable to a disaster like this, and the person in charge let this happen. You don’t even find one trace of a rat before you call in a company who will guarantee to fix it.
    The person, the manager in charge, whoever it is there, let this go and let it happen. let me tell you a thing about the food service industry. 90 percent of restaurants fail within the first year, it takes five years of working for pennies on the dollar to make the initial investment back, typically five years on any place.
    For them to allow rats in their business is the kiss of death for any food service establishment. To recover from a local business of being a rat farm will take years. This is something you cannot let go. If you do, you’re screwed.

  73. PlayerX says:

    Oprah is not amused.

  74. regneva says:

    I worked there for 5 years, ALWAYS had rats and mice they nibbled on the fancy cheese and deli food, beware of the bulk food section the mice eat through the bags. I saw quite a few roaches, the sewer would back up in the deli department a lot and fire exits blocked. Finally they got caught.Just think of all the money they lost!That is all they really care about anyway, PROFIT before all else. Truly is the “food hole”..

  75. regneva says:

    i worked there for 5 years always had mice eating the cheese and the mice would eat throught the bags of bulk products as well. The sewage would back up fairly regularly in the cheese, meat and deli departments.
    Thats why it is the food hole..If only the customers could see the back areas sometime, just filthy!! Fire exits blocked!! Truly the classic FOOD HOLE!( Don’t believe their propaganda. They do not care about anything but money and making a profit.

  76. regneva says:

    @DePaulBlueDemon: they use regular pest control..nothing natural about it