NORFOLK, Va. (WAVY) - 10 On Your Side's Dirty Dining investigations look into the area's worst offending restaurants, with a goal of getting them to make things right.
When WAVY.com's Andy Fox went to China One on East Princess Anne Road in Norfolk, he never thought he'd be walking into the middle of a Health Department inspection.
10 On Your Side took a hidden camera into China One and found an unclean food prep table,
trash on the floor, a board covering a power line from a refrigerator, and the toilet tank covered with cardboard.
WAVY.com also found Norfolk Senior Environmental Health Specialist Steve Bowman.
Bowman said, "I'm going to ask you to leave....I'm in here doing an inspection. I'm going to have to ask you to get out of the way...you can check on that [the problems in the restaurant] another time sir."
According to the Norfolk Department of Public Health, China One has had a consistent problem with unwrapped or uncovered food in the refrigerator which are violations.
WAVY.com asked Bowman, "Are you looking at the refrigerator? You want to make sure there is no cross contamination." Bowman responded, "We are doing a full health inspection."
The last time the Norfolk Health Department was in China One was on October 6, 2010. The inspection found nine core item violations and two priority violations which could lead to food contamination.
10 On Your Side wanted to ask Bowman about that and find out if China One has corrected the past violations. But Bowman said, "If you are not an employee and don't work here you will have to leave...Mr. Fox you are impeding me doing my job...please have a good day."
WAVY.com already had undercover video of improperly stored utensils. China One had this problem in October and on February 15, it was still a problem.
Bowman's inspection showed China One improved, but the operators are still not properly storing different types of raw animals and cross contamination in the refrigerator remains a priority repeat violation. There's been no improvement in that category since October.
10 On Your Side also went to Steve Bowman's boss, Agnes Flemming who is Environmental Health Manager with the Norfolk Department of Public Health.
"One of the things we do is educate. Cross contamination is a problem. They did not correct it. They listened, but they didn't learn....the inspector went out again and the cross contamination was corrected," Flemming said.
This raises a broader question. Is the Norfolk Department of Public Health and other area health departments dropping the ball with follow-up inspections?
There are hundreds of these inspection reports, but only a few show any type of follow up between inspections.
We asked Agnes Flemming, "Does the Health Department need to do more to force immediate compliance to code violations instead of just waiting until the next inspection which is three to four months?"
Here's why the re-inspection needs to be more immediate: In October, Bowman cited China One for improperly stored utensils. Four months later, on February 15 Bowman cited them again. Four months had passed, and the same problem exists. Agnes Flemming acknowledges that is an issue, "You will find some we have overlooked, but we will be addressing those issues." In fact, following our 10 on Your Side investigation, the Health Department did go back for a more timely followup inspection at China One. On February 28, Bowman found China One had reduced the number of violations to five core violations and one priority violation. The more serious priority violation was uncovered food in the refrigerator.
Flemming said it's the Health Department's responsibility is to do inspection, but the restaurant's responsibility is to fix what's wrong, but many aren't. We find time and time again the same violation is showing up on inspection reports and the only thing that's changed is time.
Following our Dirty Dining reports, there seems to be a pause, to step back and do a better job with inspections and follow-up. "It's a training moment because we want to make sure that our staff knows the importance of what they state on those records," Flemming said. The inspection records are online for all to see, and need to be accurate for the eating public. "I think you have opened the public's eyes and the management of the establishments...when we write something on the inspection forms they need to do the corrections and maintain it."
Agnes Flemming also said her inspectors need to do more "corrections during the inspections." She also wants to address challenges communicating with operators of Chinese, Japanese, and Mexican restaurants.
Hampton Roads Transit customers could see higher fares to ride the bus, light rail and ferry.
Running a red light could cost you a hefty fine, even if an officer doesn't pull you over. Cameras are going up at intersections across Hampton Roads, and the most recent went live Monday in downtown Norfolk.
An Amtrak train carrying more than 40 passengers was involved in an accident with a car Thursday morning in Waverly. The driver of the car is facing multiple charges.