MARGATE, Fla. - The owner of a South Florida supermarket is facing criminal charges on accusations that he has been selling decomposing and rotting fish to the public.
Zhihua Qiu, 47, faces three second-degree misdemeanors for allegedly selling the spoiled fish and was issued a notice to appear in court last month. His initial court appearance occurred on Tuesday.
Qiu owns China Supermarket at 1332 North State Road 7 in Margate, where the fish was being sold.
The charges come after the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission received a complaint and dispatched an officer to the supermarket.
According to Officer Corey Nall's report, the fish were yellowing and decomposing and there were tilapia that had completely faded and had rotting eyes.
Nall said another tilapia had turned completely white with a rash forming down its side in a live tank.
The officer reported that he saw that fish gills had turned from red (fresh) to slimy gray from decomposition.
An employee could not provide receipts for the fish and told the officer the fish had been in the market for at least six months, the report stated.
The Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services usually inspects supermarkets and grocery stores in the state.
According to a records search done by Local 10 News Investigator Jeff Weinsier, China Supermarket hadn't been inspected since April 2018.
"The 15 months between inspections at this establishment isn't an unusual timeframe. In the previous April 2018 inspection of this supermarket, they met inspection requirements, and there was no indication they would be a higher risk," said Franco E. Ripple, Director of Communications for the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services.
But because Local 10 News brought the rotting fish issue up, the argriculture department sent an inspector out to China Supermarket on Wednesday.
"Our food safety inspector issued several stop-sale orders, including the self-service seafood area, the produce area, the cooked meat display case and a food processing area," Ripple said.
According to the inspection, bugs were found in rice, frozen chicken was contaminated by waste water and mold was found in an ice maker.
China Supermarket will be re-inspected within two weeks.
There are 45,000 food establishments in Florida and only 80 FDACS retail inspectors.
"The Department simply doesn't have personnel to inspect every store annually," Ripple said.
Unlike restaurants that are ordered shut, supermarkets are not.
China Supermarket is open for business.
Qiu will be back in court after telling Broward County Judge Terri-Ann Miller on Tuesday that he wanted to consult with an attorney.
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