FLORENCE, Ala. — Many residents in west Florence said they have had enough of the poor food quality inside the Florence Food Center on West College Street.
District 1 Councilwoman Kaytrina Simmons said this isn’t something new. The business previously came under fire in 2019 prompting a Lauderdale County Health Department investigation.
“I think they went into the store; I didn’t hear a lot about it because they were certainly on a backlog of that and then we went into COVID, so things really slowed down,” Simmons said. “Up until that, other than continuously hearing about complaints, complaints, after complaints, I haven’t heard anything else until recently.”
News 19 talked with several west Florence residents who complained about outdated meat being sold, moldy produce, and foul smells inside the building.
“I don’t even think the food is fit to even be eaten by anyone,” resident Joe Duster said.
News 19’s Jeremy Jackson went into the store to see for himself and discovered overripe bananas, zucchini squash that appeared to be molding, and ground beef for sale past the sell-by date.
The store currently has a food score of 77. The health department said this is because of flies in the building, the lack of a certified food manager, and a dirty ice machine.
Until those violations are taken care of, the store is under a notice of intent to suspend (NOIS) permit. However, the health department said meat can be sold past the sell-by date so long as it remains frozen.
Councilwoman Simmons said she doesn’t want the store to close because it’s the only grocery store on the west side but if it doesn’t improve, she sees no other option.
“It would become a food desert but as far as I’m concerned, it’s a food desert now,” Simmons said. “I don’t want him to close down; I want him to bring it up to par but this continues to keep happening so obviously he’s not going to bring it up to par.”
The owner declined to speak on camera but said he is trying to improve. The health department did a follow-up inspection Thursday afternoon and told News 19 it should have an updated report in the coming days.