Target 8’s Dirty Dining investigation leads to tracking changes

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) -- A Target 8 investigation into Kent County restaurant inspections has led to a change that now allows customers to more easily track violations that could make them sick.

The Dirty Dining series revealed an inspection system that allowed even the worst restaurants to hide their flaws from the public.

Oriental Asian Buffet at 5316 Clyde Park Ave. SW was among the restaurants.

That's the name on its signs and menus. Under that name, the website that tracks restaurant inspections showed no issues since 2012, making it appear to be a perfectly safe place to eat.

>>Online: Search restaurant inspection reports

But on business papers filed with the state, Oriental Asian Buffet is known as Asian Garden.

When Target 8 searched Asian Garden on the inspection website, the establishment was cited for more serious, potentially health-threatening violations than any other restaurant in Kent County – 39 violations in three years.

Target 8 tests a frog leg at Oriental Asian Buffet in Wyoming. (May 15, 2017)

Target 8 discovered the flaw and pointed it out to the Kent County Health Department, which vowed to fix it. Now customers can search restaurants by name or address.

"So at least now if you're standing in front of the restaurant, and it's at 123 Main Street, you can put in 123 Main Street and then the restaurants will come up, the restaurants that are there, the inspection reports that are there will come up," said Steve Kelso, spokesman for the Kent County Health Department.

The change covers not only Kent County, but more than a dozen other counties that post restaurant inspections on the Sword Solutions, Inc. website, including Allegan, Barry, Ionia, Kalamazoo and Muskegon counties.

"Now you'll have better information at your fingertips before you go in there and decide where you want to spend your hard-earned money to eat," Kelso said.

As for Asian Garden, health inspectors returned in June and found five more serious violations, but a follow-up visit in July showed they'd been fixed.

Dirty Dining: Back to school edition

West Michigan's school cafeterias are not safe from serious health code violations.

Target 8 examined more than three years of Kent County reports and found nearly 300 serious health code violations reported by inspectors at schools.

The kind of violations that can make consumers sick surfaces at more than 100 public and private schools in the county. Five of the schools had 10 violations each over 3.5 years.

But unlike restaurants that violate the health code, the schools' "customers" have few alternatives.

“There are few other choices for them to run out to another restaurant, so this is where you are. Certainly you (can) pack your own lunch, but for a lot of kids, this is where they are,” said Kelso.

Tuesday on 24 Hour News 8 at 6, Target 8 Investigator Ken Kolker reveals the biggest violators and how they’re responding to keep your kids safe.

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