Dirty Dining: Local buffet had over 70 violations with improper food temperatures over the last year

PINELLAS PARK, Fla. - As you observe ice stored underneath sushi, shrimp, and clams and smoke billowing off hot items, it looks like the food on the Hibachi Buffet on 49th Street North in Pinellas Park is safe to eat but looks can be deceiving.
 
The inspection reports over the last year seem to show a different picture.

"The temperature of the food the last couple of reports have been an issue," ABC Action News anchor Wendy Ryan said, as she met Hibachi's General Manager Tony Zheng. But Zheng blamed it on equipment failure.

"Yeah because I just replaced the whole cooler. It was not working," Zheng explained.

Inside that refrigeration unit earlier this year, inspectors discovered chicken nuggets and cooked pork at improper temperatures so they stopped the sale of three large pans of food.

And more recently in May, inspectors found two pounds of tempura shrimp on the sushi bar not cold enough and ordered the restaurant to throw it out.

"So did you do some retraining?" Ryan asked.

"Yeah, yeah," Zheng responded.

Over the last year, 73 violations were documented, including other temperature issues with garlic-in-oil/margarine/butter mixture, raw fish, chicken wings, sushi, shell eggs, along with egg foo young and beef on the buffet at improper temperatures.

And despite what inspectors documented at Hibachi Buffet, Zheng says he documents when food is prepared to keep items fresh and safe.  

"So it's a lot of work?" asked Ryan.

"That's something we have to do," Zheng said.

Still we saw repeat food safety violations inside the kitchen with meat thawing out on the table. The same violation the restaurant was cited for last year when inspectors found scallops thawing at room temperature. Food should be thawed in the refrigerator, maintaining a temperature of 41 degrees Fahrenheit or less or completely submerged under running water.

But Zheng still claims all violations have been corrected.

"So everything's good?" Ryan asked.

"Of course, yeah," Zheng responded.

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