NEW YORK (WPIX) – New York City’s Sanitation Department came under fire after videos showed workers throwing away fresh produce from an unlicensed street vendor.
The videos, posted by the Street Vendor Project on Saturday morning, showed at least two workers tossing individual fruits and vegetables as well as crates of produce into the back of a garbage truck.
The organization, which advocates for street vendors in New York City, alleged that thousands of dollars in fresh produce were trashed.
CONTENT WARNING: The video in the tweet below contains strong language.
An official with one of the involved agencies told WPIX the sanitation workers had no choice but to trash the produce due to New York City regulations and protocol regarding fresh food.
The Department of Consumer and Worker Protection was issuing a violation to the unlicensed vendor when they abandoned the items, the official said. The NYPD called in the sanitation workers to dispose of the crates of produce left behind when the vendor failed to return, according to DCWP.
City law states agencies should attempt to donate confiscated fresh food items, however, a Department of Health representative must first certify the food is safe.
The official said the Department of Sanitation had to trash the produce because the chain of custody of the food could not be verified as safe to consume, but the workers were forced to leave after a crowd of angry residents gathered at the scene.
When the workers returned later in the day, most of the food had been removed from the location by unknown individuals, the official said.
The video sparked outrage on social media and quickly went viral. A rally was held Sunday to condemn the city’s actions and call for fewer restrictions on street vendors.
“This video shows a small portion of an unfortunate situation, where abandoned material needed to be disposed of for the safety of the community. The Department of Sanitation is committed to our mission of keeping streets and neighborhoods safe, clean, and healthy,” the spokesperson said.
The Department of Consumer and Worker Protection told WPIX it would work with the involved city agencies to ensure this doesn’t happen again.
“The results of this multi-agency vending enforcement are not in line with the city’s policies. DCWP and its sister agencies who assist with confiscations when necessary will work together to ensure this type of wastefulness does not happen again,” the spokesperson said.