Health department vigilant about PR after rat incident

NEW YORK: The New York City Department of Health was forced to refute claims that it was asleep at the wheel in the wake of the recent Taco Bell/KFC rat-gate incident.

NEW YORK: The New York City Department of Health was forced to refute claims that it was asleep at the wheel in the wake of the recent Taco Bell/KFC rat-gate incident.

The criticism shifted from Taco Bell and KFC for its substandard dining facilities to the department after it was revealed that an inspector had visited the restaurant a day before

Geoffrey Cowley, associate commissioner for communications at the department, said after learning an inspector had only done a partial inspection the day before the incident, "[we knew] we obviously had a PR problem."

"It wasn't a crisis in the sense that we had a real problem; we had a perceived problem" Cowley explained. "And since perceptions matter, it's been important to try to get people to understand this. We've been responding to press inquires, updating people, putting together charts and data, anything that people need to get a clearer view of how this system works."

Cowley said the plan was to stay in front of the story and be as transparent as possible. The department held a news conference the next day, removed the inspector from field duty and announced an investigation into that inspector's work. A report on the findings of the inspector's work and why there was such a discrepancy between the inspection on February 22 and February 23 was scheduled to be issued late last week, Cowley said.

The issue is being handled internally without the help of an agency.

"We saw a lot of images on TV and stories written from perspectives that made us look bad, no question about that. But you don't get to look good all the time," he said. "You have to accept that you're going to get bad press once in a while. So in that sense we took a hit, but I don't think we've been discredited in any way."

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