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Rome Has Some Really Serious Problems with Food Safety

This past year could have been a particularly challenging one for maintaining health standards. In the aftermath of ridding the Roman trash collection system of organized crime, the city was left with garbage piling up throughout the cramped city.

Wyatt Marshall

Photo via Flickr user tyle_r

Ah, Rome, the eternal city: a living, breathing, sprawling metropolis where history pervades every cobbled alley and works its way into every magical moment, whether as young couples sit upon the Spanish Steps at dusk or old friends reunite over a late dinner at a trattoria in Trastevere. Speaking of the latter, it turns out that running a restaurant in a millennia-old city presents some challenges. According to Il Corriere, a quarter of Rome's restaurants are potentially facing closure due to hygiene issues. Since November 2015, Italian health police—the Carabinieri of carbonara—have paid visits to 727 Roman restaurants, most of them in the city center, and have doled out 521 fines totaling €658,000 ($715,000). They encountered problems at half of the restaurants they visited. Among their findings, according to The Local, was a cockroach infestation at an osteria that was so extensive that there were even roaches found in the cash register. That's bad, but maybe not as bad as the rodent feces that were found in plated food at a Japanese restaurant. Other offenses included perishable food stored incorrectly, served past its use-by date, and stored too close to cleaning products. Officials seized about 5,000 pounds of meat, 5,000 pounds of fish, and nearly $22,000 in oil, and criminal charges have been brought against 33 people. This past year could have been a particularly challenging one for maintaining health standards. In the aftermath of ridding the Roman trash collection system of organized crime, the city was left with garbage piling up throughout the cramped city. Last year was also a Catholic Jubilee, during which 18 million pilgrims visited the Vatican, adding to the city's already immense tourist influx. Of course, none of this is really an excuse for failure to follow the health code and basics of food hygiene.

If the next time you find yourself in Rome, you discover that that great little dinner spot from your last vacation has closed, it may turn out that you dodged a bullet—a cockroachy, past-expiration bullet.