ORLANDO, Fla. - Days after an Action 9 investigation exposed restaurants that kept failing inspections, the state sent its own inspectors back into the same kitchens, and regulators found many similar violations that could've made patrons sick.
Action 9's Todd Ulrich uncovered a new state regulation will now put pressure on the worst offenders to clean up their act.
Ginza near downtown Orlando failed seven state inspections in three years. One of the big violations was when an inspector uncovered mystery fish.
“The state said you were serving fake tuna. How did that happen?” Ulrich asked a manager.
“Most sushi bars do the same thing with white tuna as escolar,” the manager said.
The inspector called the cheap tuna substitute a critical violation.
When managers allowed Action 9's retired state inspector inside, he found uncovered food stored on the floor, blocked hand sinks and filthy storage.
“Just a lot of grime and grease around. I would definitely keep my eye on this place,” said retired inspector Roy Costa.
Only three weeks after our visit, a state inspector flunked the restaurant for similar violations that included hand wash problems, food temperature abuse and storage that was a “junk yard” with a “fecal smell."
According to Florida regulators, Action 9's investigation also triggered three new state inspections at restaurants we just examined.
Many repeat violations remained.
At Kalib's Kafe, the state found risky food temperatures and refrigeration problems that Action 9 had spotted.
At King Buffet in Titusville, again, raw meat was stored over uncovered vegetables.
And at New Century Buffet, the official inspection found the sanitizing was risky, the same thing Action 9's inspector spotted.
“That is very toxic, and it can be harmful,” said retired inspector Paul Cook.
In July, new inspection regulations take aim at the worst offenders. It will require more surprise inspections at bad restaurants with up to four inspections per year.
Restaurants with good records will be inspected once a year.
State Rep. Mike La Rosa cosponsored the reform.
“This will put some of the bad players in check, knowing an inspector could come in at any time and at any moment," he said.
New Century and Kalib's Kafe did pass the new state inspections.
King Buffet failed the surprise inspection and then passed a next day follow-up.
Ginza still faces a follow-up inspection.
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