Dirty Dining 2014: Health inspections at Tri-State restaurants show troubling trend

How safe is your favorite food source?

David Yang had a rough year with a Hamilton County inspector whose “by-the-book” approach led to 41 violations at his Forest Park restaurant, China Garden Buffet.

“The new guy really gave us a hard time,” said Yang, a 14-year industry veteran who owns a second restaurant in Springboro. “We keep cleaning every day, and he’s still not satisfied.”

Hamilton County records show the violation count hit a four-year high at Yang’s 206-seat China Garden Buffet on East Kemper Road. Two violations were for sushi stored at too high a temperature. Inspectors found dead cockroaches four times, including twice under the buffet line. On Oct. 10, live roaches were observed near the dishwashing area.

Yang said the restaurant doubled its pest-control treatments to twice monthly over the summer and never had a customer complain of food-related illness.

China Garden Buffet passed its most recent inspection with no violations on Jan. 9, leading Yang to conclude: “Finally, he recognized that most restaurants are not as clean as us.”

Yang is not alone in his frustration.

A WCPO analysis of restaurant violations from the city of Cincinnati and six local counties found ethnic restaurants tend to have higher violation counts per inspection than casual dining, fast food and other restaurant categories.

Hamilton County says it follows the same criteria when inspecting all restaurants, regardless of ethnicity. It also offers educational programs in multiple languages to help restaurateurs operate safely.

“Our goal here is to make sure people succeed in their business,” said Jeremy Hessel, Hamilton County’s Director of Environmental Health. “Last thing we want... is somebody getting ill in their business.”

This is the second year WCPO has pulled restaurant inspections from health departments around the Tri-State into a single searchable database. In addition to Cincinnati, the 32,474 violations at 5,579 food-service facilities come from Clermont and Hamilton counties in Ohio and Boone, Kenton, Campbell and Grant counties in Kentucky.

Here's a look at two of the region's top 10 violators:             









Restaurant: Bethel IGA

Located: 545 W. Plane St. Bethel
           Rank: 2
           2013 Violations: 68 (20 critical)
           Description: Clermont County inspectors found 33 maintenance violations including 10 related to labeling in 10 visits. Two visits were prompted by complaints.
           Company response: Owner Charles Collins said he's invested more than $50,000 in new equipment since 2010. "It's an ongoing process," he said. "Any corrections that need to be done, we make them." 


















Restaurant: Sorrento’s

Located: 8794 Reading Road, Reading
           Rank: 3
           2013 Violations: 58 (27 critical)
           Description: Hamilton County inspectors found 58 violations including 24 related to maintenance and cleaning in six visits from January to August.
           Company response: "It's an old building, they ask too much, but none of the violations were serious," said Ray Musa, owner. "We try to fix, it's just an old building. It's tough, honestly."

WCPO Insiders can see all top 10 violators, find out how their favorite restaurant did in health inspections and why ethnic restaurants may have higher violation counts.


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