Sunday, March 04, 2007

You Dirty Rat!

The more that we continue to here about the problems of rat infestation the more that it becomes clear that we need to really attack the food sources that the rodents feed on. In yesterday's NY Post there is a story about how Yum Brands, the owner of Taco Bell and KFC, is bringing one of the country's leading rat experts into NYC to help the chain combat the rat.

The expert, Dr. Bobby Corrigan, told the Post that the rat problem was "pervasive" in many American cities, "'And if someone leaves a door open, displaced rodents will follow their nose to the food.' But he said filth and leftover trash-particularly leftover food-is what lures rodents to the restaurants on a daily basis."

In the meantime, the city's DOH, having been found asleep on the job, is overreacting and coming down on the restaurants like the proverbial ton of bricks; issuing thousands of violations in an effort to appear to be proactive. All of which leaves the city's eateries, the $20 million yearly cash cow for the municipal treasury, in an even more precarious financial position.

Rats are a persistent urban problem. The storage of food waste exacerbates the problem in NYC and the city has been slow to attack the problem at the source. It began when the Sanitation Department forbid the storage of food in outdoor dumpsters. We were at the hearing where Commissioner Doherty told the City Council of the public health menace emanating from these outdoor trash storage bins. We were incredulous at the commissioner's failure to realize, however, that moving the problem indoors, where food is stored and prepared, would not eliminate the problem but only make it worse.

Shutting down the city's restaurants in a media-driven panic is not any kind of solution. We need to provide the eateries with a tool that will help them control the rat infestation in a sensible and cost-effective manner. That is why the mayor and the council should immediately negotiate a new agreement that allows for the implementation of Intro 133.

The use of food waste disposers would reduce the rat's food supply and help to dramatically mitigate a major public health menace. That it would also help local food stores and restaurants to reduce the cost of disposal, while lowering the number of garbage trucks on the city streets, is simply an added bonus of a sensible public policy.