Tuesday, July 12, 2011
Tummy ache? Maybe it’s not the flu, could be the sushi
by Larry Geller
I walked past one of those chain sushi restaurants downtown just before lunch time yesterday, and I have to tell you, I suddenly really wanted some. But no.
One thing I love about Hawaii is that we can easily get many of the foods we came to love while living in Japan. It’s great to be able to buy locally made natto in almost any supermarket. For lunch, there is a wide variety of Asian dishes available in plate lunches. And yes, there is something like Japanese sushi available from little franchise shops everywhere.
In Japan we loved sushi. We could afford the best, and we had the advantage of being able to read restaurant reviews in Japanese. We also knew people who knew people, if you know what I mean, which is important to get into the best places.
But in Hawaii? Watch out. Sushi, of all foods, needs to be fresh and kept properly. If you’re not eating the fish, some little microbe is.
Now read this to see one reason why we don’t eat sushi here:
There are more than 5,800 places to eat on Oahu but only 10 health inspectors to check them all. Of the restaurants they do inspect 70 percent have violations. That's much higher than the rest of the country.
"It's not surprising at all," said Peter Oshiro, Department of Health, Sanitation Branch Supervisor. "Right now we're at almost one inspection almost every two years so we're not even close to where we're supposed to be and that's the result you're going to see in the field a lot of violations."
[HawaiiNewsNow, Behind the Counter Second Serving: Inspectors hope changes will clean up food industry, 11/18/2010]
So that sushi restaurant I passed likely hasn’t been inspected once in over two years.
The same article mentioned the Chinatown rat situation:
Last year in Chinatown rats were seen crawling all over produce in a market. Despite that discovery there still isn't a single inspector that checks the area on a regular basis.
I can tell you a thing or two about those rats, of course. Our Department of Health would not approve overtime for inspectors to go out at night and see them even after the video was posted.
But back to sushi. If 70 percent of restaurants have violations, how can we trust that little sushi shop to properly care for the fish?
We can’t. Be warned.
For me, it’s a big disappointment not being able to indulge whenever I crave a bit of raw fish on my way through downtown.
Oh, if you like a certain pancake restaurant, keep your eye on the little pitcher they use to bring milk for your coffee. Watch what happens to it when they clean off a table. Does it get washed with the other dirty dishes? No. It is put back next to the coffee machine. I’m guessing that the pitchers may not be washed all day. Suppose some little kid sneezes into one…. ugh.
I reported it to the DOH, but that was over a year ago and the situation is unchanged. I’m going to report it again, but thought I’d let you know about this one, just in case you like those special sourdough pancakes as much as I do.
Welcome to Hawaii, APEC 2011 delegates. At least the water is safe for you to drink.