GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — The director of the Kent County Health Department said Target 8’s “Dirty Dining” investigation has revealed flaws in the restaurant inspection system that need fixing.
One possible change: Bigger fines, especially for the worst violators.
“Looking at increasing our fines is something that we should consider,” Health Department Director Adam London told Target 8 on Thursday.
Target 8’s analysis found the county’s top violator, Oriental Asian Buffet in Wyoming, has faced $600 in fines despite 39 serious violations — the kinds that can make you sick — over three years.
“In most cases it actually does work, it gets their attention,” London said of the fines.
The director also said Target 8 revealed a major flaw — that restaurants can easily hide behind aliases.
“That’s a frustration and we saw in your reporting some of the difficulties people have finding the history of that establishment because of a name change,” he said.
The county’s biggest violator — whose sign and menu read Oriental Asian Buffet — has done that for five years, hiding behind its legal name, Asian Garden, making it almost impossible for customers to search its history.
“I think we can do a better job of looking at our data,” London said. “I think we can do a better job of making those reports more easy to search, by address, perhaps.”
Kent County Restaurants With 20+ Violations (2014-2016)
Some viewers who responded to the series wondered why the county doesn’t post letter grades at restaurants — A for the cleanest, F for the worst — as they do in some states. London opposes that idea:
“My concern is that fundamentally changes the relationship between the inspector and the establishment. The establishment becomes more concerned about their grade than they do about what they should be doing to get better.”
He said he hopes the series will force the worst offenders to clean up.
“This story is absolutely a wake-up call to many of the poor performers,” he said. “I think there were probably an awful lot of establishments that were relieved they weren’t included in the story.”
London pointed out that many restaurants are clean and focus on food safety. The best of those, more than 500, earn Food Safety Awards.