Filthy Restaurants

Reporter: Rodney Lohse

The biggest hygiene blitz ever. Outrageous failure to comply with the standards. Maggots, cockroaches, rats, droppings, grime and filth. Diners and foodies beware, this is what lurks behind some of our most exclusive eateries. Councils are cracking down and with good reason. Here's what one of Australia's biggest has uncovered and released to Today Tonight as other councils continue the blitz.

This restaurant, in one of Brisbane's most popular hotels; The Fox, harbouring cockroaches and maggots. They found rotting meat festering in room temperature. This hot bread kitchen knows it's kitchen harbours pests. Why else would it hang bait to catch out the culprits? Inspectors also found the kitchen doubling as a garage for this bike, the floor, storage space for cooking equipment.

This family restaurant, Brisbane's Buffet Garden, out front - all you can eat, out back - nothing you can trust. This has to be seen to be believed; in the bowels of K and K Fresh Food market, food inspectors were greeted by this sight, then a true gallery of horrors. This Asian food house washed it's containers of raw meat in its own hand basin. Mice faeces were found on and around equipment in Kim Thahn's hot bread shop that hadn't been washed in months.

Brisbane City Council have declared war on its dirtiest restaurants. Lord Mayor Campbell Newman.; "The good thing though is that we've caught those people and they are a small minority. I think its disgraceful that people would be so cavalier in the way they treat their customers, it's really out of step with community standards. That's why we've determined this new scheme to help industry lift their game."

Brisbane will soon have a points system introduced to help diners know which restaurants, cafés and food outlets are practising the highest standards of food safety handling. Its called Dining with the Stars, where the actual restaurants and food establishments will be rated and will be entitled to display a number of stars on the premises. Its not just small business, back alley restaurants tucked into a dark corner. It's also the biggest takeaway outlets on the retail landscape; Mcdonalds, KFC, Dominos. Billion dollar cash cows named and shamed by the food authority of New South Wales.

The McDonalds in Minto in Sydney's South West was penalised in march this year for harbouring maggots, failing to keep the restaurant clear of garbage, dirt, food waste and grease. Patrons we spoke to recently were unaware of the safety breaches. "Not to the standard I expect, especially when you have children eating here too."

"I wish you'd told me before I went through the drive thru - tell you what. You can have that back."

Others knew of its reputation..."There's always black grit on the meat like they haven't cleaned the grill."

"This is known for being an unclean McDonalds in Sydney - definitely."

"One of the worst? Put money on it."

In a statement today, McDonalds told us that these issues' "...were rectified immediately upon their discovery. And that incidents such as this are a rarity." They also added "hygiene and food safety as the highest priority to their business. "

The Food Authority found cockroaches rampant in this Dominoes in Sydney's outer suburbs. Perhaps the dirtiest takeaway outlet is this KFC in Miranda recording a total of 8 guilty convictions since 2007 in relation to cleanliness and hygiene. The KFC in Randwick also had live cockroaches on it's premises. We know these offenders and their offences because they have been listed on a Central Register, a name and shame file. Part of the NSW food authority's fight against unsafe food practises.

The most common things are just basic hygiene, failure to clean, failure to have hand washing facilities. Dinners are hungry for safe food information, the site attracting 4 million hits since it opened 2 years ago. Primary Industries Minister, Steve Whan, said the name-and-shame list, doesn't discriminate. Big or small, your name and reputation are on the line. There are things that would shock you if you go into a kitchen and find food on the floor or inappropriately stored or mice faeces or rat faeces or things like that - that's somewhere you don't want to be eating food out of and the public has a right to know. We expect them to uphold the standards and having the label, having the brand name doesn't exempt them from being caught out by food inspectors if they do the wrong thing."

A Dominoes restaurant in Mount Gravatt in Brisbane was found guilty of 20 breaches of the food act. The breaches, which occurred in 2008, included 20 to 25 cockroaches observed in the store's preparation area, more cockroaches and cockroach eggs under a bench and more in the cold room and other areas. But the Council fines paled in comparison to Dominoes action - they sacked management. CEO of dominoes, Don Meij said; "We have a zero tolerance of anything that has to do with food safety - we have a very high standard - strong programme to reinforce that. We have a zero tolerance policy to anything that might happen that's unsafe in anyway in our business."

In one case, a cockroach was found in a meal. The only visible cockroach trap was under a desk in an office and that trap was found to be full of dead cockroaches. In Melbourne, takeaway lovers are eating blind. There is no name and shame list, but the Department of Health is working on it, changing their food act so a register of convictions will be available within 6 months. The only people that have anything to fear are the dodgy operators, our message to them is "Do the right thing and look after your customers and you wont have a problem."

To see the complete Name and Shame list visit;

www.foodauthority.nsw.gov.au/

Western Australia Name and Shame list

www.public.health.wa.gov.au/2/825/2/publication_of_names_of_offenders.pm