Felice Freyer of DeFuco’s Salmonella fame, may well have written the best opening sentence in a food poisoning case ever:

“Uncle Sushi and Grill in Cranston has shut down after health inspectors found mouse droppings and evidence that a baby’s diapers were being changed in the kitchen, among other violations.”

Screen shot 2011-05-26 at 7.00.37 PM.pngHer story is so good, I am printing it in full:

The inspection took place on Monday when health officials learned that eight people who ate at the restaurant on May 19 became ill with vomiting, diarrhea, nausea and abdominal cramps.

Based on the symptoms, the illnesses were probably caused by norovirus, said Health Department spokeswoman Annemarie Beardsworth. All employees were asked for stool samples, and so far three have tested positive for norovirus, she said.

Although the owner, Thong Den Vongvixay, closed the restaurant voluntarily, the Health Department issued a compliance order to make sure that he does not reopen until all violations are corrected, Beardsworth said.

The restaurant, at 570 Reservoir Ave., opened in January 2005 and was last inspected on April 22, 2009. Rhode Island has only seven food inspectors for 8,000 establishments and cannot keep up with routine inspections.

These are the key violations that inspectors found:
– Mouse droppings were found in flour, jimmies and noodles and on the doilies on which sushi is served.
– Vinegar was being stored in container previously used for laundry detergent.
– Rice was kept at room temperature in a turned-off cooker.
– The restaurant does not employ a full-time manager certified in food safety.
– A microwave had dried food accumulation.
– Tubular lights were lacking shields
– Scooters, toys, powder and wipes were found in the kitchen area, suggesting that a child was allowed in the kitchen area and diapers were changed there.

“We didn’t catch them in the act,” Beardsworth said. “The evidence would lead us to believe that that was occurring.” The owner has a 3-year-old who is still in diapers. In any case, only employees are allowed in the kitchen.

Diapers, really?

  • doc raymond

    The only thing that makes this worse than it appears at first glance is that this restaurant specializes in serving RAW FOOD.

  • Minkpuppy

    Definitely a case of buyer beware. The city I live in is known for a variety ethnic restaraunts ranging from Ethopian food to you standard Chinese fare. I would say you’re taking your life in your hands if you eat in 99% of them. The food tastes great but the looks of the places will scare you off. We’re also short on city health inspectors and I hear all kinds of stories about them taking pay offs. We used to have a consumer reporter on the local news that gave “Slime in the ice machine” reports but those went away when he passed away a few years ago. Now it’s a crap shoot when you go out to eat.

  • Tony S

    I’ve been to this place several times. The food is delicious, and the guy that runs the place is one of the nicest men I’ve ever met. I hope this doesn’t ruin him. As anyone who’s had a mouse problem knows, it can get quickly out of hand.
    The afflicted patrons didn’t get food poisoning – they got the norovirus.

  • Theresa

    Tony, how would you define Food Poisoning?

    How about an ” Illness caused by bacteria or other toxins in food.” Norovirus and food poisoning are the same thing.

    How can you defend this place? I have several favorite places to eat, and if I became ill or found out the baby was being changed on the prep table, I would have no issue with never eating there again.

  • Tony S

    Theresa, I was not clear enough in my post. I was trying to indicate that the mouse problem did not cause the outbreak of food poisoning that the patrons suffered – it was the virus. Norovirus and food poisoning are not the same thing as you state, though one is a typical cause of the other.

    To address your other concern, I’m not defending the place. For what it’s worth, I’d never eat there again. I feel sorry that the owner’s business and livelihood are likely ruined. As I said, he’s a nice guy, and I’m sure he didn’t want this to happen.

  • Theresa Kentner

    I agree, Tony, that the mouse problem did not cause the food poisoning outbreak. It is a symptom of a larger issue.
    It is likely that if the owner/managers aren’t paying attention to one of the easiest things monitor, (not necessarily easy to FIX) that they aren’t paying attention to the bigger picture of food safety.

  • Tony S

    I drove by the place yesterday, and it appeared open for business as usual. The “OPEN” sign was lit, and there were a few people seated at the tables. I guess they aren’t too concerned about the findings.