Lawrence County Walmart’s Food License Suspended and Reinstated

Hannah Elstro, MVC writer and photographer

On March 22nd, 2023, the Marion County Public Health Department did a health inspection on the Walmart located at 10735 Pendleton Pike. The inspection came as a result of three consumer complaints to the health department within five months, a violation that resulted in a $500 fine and investigation. The Walmart’s food license was suspended after the resulting investigation, which found “significant rodent activity” in the store. This activity included torn packaging and rodent droppings across the Walmart, specifically in the pet food, grocery, and receiving area sections of the store. 

The spokesperson for the Marion County Public Health Department (MCPHD) stated that, “The [Walmart’s] food license will not be reinstated until the violations have been corrected and the establishment passes inspection by MCPHD.” The MCPHD report stated that the conditions to being reinstated included “eliminating the mice, cleaning all shelving with droppings, getting rid of any entries for the rodents and getting rid of all damaged food packaging.” They also stated that they were watching the Walmart closely. A Walmart spokesperson gave a statement to WishTv, where they said that, “The cleanliness and safety of our stores is a top priority. We have conducted a thorough third-party inspection to address the matter. We want to assure our customers that we will continue to prioritize their health in our stores and are working to immediately resolve this.” 

One large impact the closure has had is to the marginalized communities surrounding it. WishTv interviewed Cheria Cadwell, who takes part in a food giveaway that is held every Monday afternoon at the Far Eastside Neighborhood Center. Cadwell stated, “Over the last several years, we have had multiple grocery stores close, such as the neighborhood Walmart, Kroger and the Marsh’s in the area, so, starting in 2020 as a response to the pandemic as well as the closing of the grocery stores, we started this food distribution, and we are serving roughly 700 families a month now. That gap is obviously going to increase with the closure of the Walmart on Pendleton Pike.” 

Walmart did make significant efforts to meet the MCHPD’s inspection criteria, though, with Wish Tv stating that the “I-Team 8 was told cleaning crews inside of this Walmart are scrubbing every surface in the store.” 

The board did an initial reinspection on March 25th, where inspectors noted that “not enough progress” had been made to reopen the store. During a third inspection on March 27th, the entire store, except the Deli and Bakery sections, were allowed to open once again. Finally, as of March 29th, the Marion County Public Health Department has fully reinstated the Walmart’s food license.

Although the license has been reinstated, some people may not be going back, feeling both anger and disappointment in the store. Caldwell told I-Team 8 a sentiment that seems to run in the community, stating that “…not only are they letting the community down, they are letting other organizations down who rely on them to be able to continue to serve the community in the capacity they said they would.” 

Elmer Centero, who had just finished shopping inside the Walmart, told Fox, “It’s pretty, pretty gross. I actually wasn’t aware of that.” 

Others are angry. “Food is going up and we have to pay for rodents, too?” said a shopper who was only identified as Kay. 

Even more are in shock. “In about 17 and a half years in public health, I don’t recall such a large establishment losing a food license, or at least temporarily [losing it],” said Graham McKeen, the director of Public and Environmental Health for IU. McKeen also gave advice to any shoppers of the Walmart, stating that “you should wash all produce and inspect items in packaging… If you’re concerned, …throw it out.”