Words: Elise Solé
An American woman named Tara Renee took a photo of the worker talking on the phone with her uncovered feet propped up on a counter where sandwich ingredients are stored.
“This is at the Subway on State St. near the U of M [University of Michigan]! Quite disgusting! I’m sure the health dept would have an issue with this. Bon appetit,” Renee wrote Friday on Facebook.
Sources told WXYZ that the Ann Arbor-based employee was the owner’s wife, although Yahoo Lifestyle could not confirm that. When called for comment, no one at the restaurant picked up the phone.
“She’s denied ever doing this just three days ago, and there’s still been no admission of responsibility or personal apology to customers,” according to WXYZ.
Kip Klopfenstein, business development agent at Subway, tells Yahoo Lifestyle, “The behavior in this photo is inconsistent with the high standards Subway requires of its restaurants. Food safety and restaurant cleanliness are top priorities. We are investigating and will take appropriate action.”
On Monday, Renee sent the photo to the Washtenaw County Health Department, the agency that oversees customer complaints and performs restaurant inspections in this Subway’s jurisdiction. The image is a strong visual representation of a valid food safety concern, says environmental health director Kristen Schweighoefer.
“We explained to Subway why bare feet on a countertop was unhygienic,” Schweighoefer tells Yahoo Lifestyle. “My understanding is that the employee was tired and this was a lapse in judgment.”
Schweighoefer says the agency usually handles restaurant complaints that are far worse — rodent infestations, sewage problems (which cause immediate store closures) and unsanitized kitchen tools. Unwashed feet can transfer dust or bacteria to the food space, she says, and the organization will take an educational approach with Subway.
“We’re getting to the root cause,” Schweighoefer notes. “Do employees have an appropriate place to take breaks or chairs that allow them to relax?”
In December, that particular Subway location received zero violations during an inspection, and unless bare feet are a repeated occurrence, there are no fines or penalties. As usual, Subway will continue undergoing periodic inspections by the health department.
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