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Source of Hep A outbreak traced to scallops from Philippines

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    Employees clean the Genki Sushi conveyor belt restaurant chain today in Aiea. The Hawaii State Department of Health ordered Genki to close its 10 restaurants on Oahu and one on Kauai after state authorities identified its raw scallops as the probable source of a hepatitis A outbreak.


    Employees clean the Genki Sushi store in Aiea today after the state Health Department announced that scallops served at the restaurant chain were determined to be the probable cause of a hepatitis A outbreak.


    Dr. Sarah Park, left, state epidemiologist, Dr. Virginia Pressler, state health director, and Mary Hansen, chief administrative officer of Genki Sushi USA Inc., spoke at a press conference this morning on the hepatits A outbreak in Hawaii.


    Genki Sushi restaurant at Ward Village is seen closed on Monday.

The frozen scallops suspected of causing the hepatitis A outbreak in Hawaii originated in the Philippines and were distributed by Koha Oriental Foods on Oahu and Kauai, the state Health Department announced this afternoon.

The department identified the product as Sea Port Bay Scallops (Wild Harvest, Raw Frozen), which carry the notation “Product of the Philippines” on the box.

The scallops were served raw at Genki Sushi restaurants on Oahu and Kauai. Those restaurants were shut down Monday evening after authorities determined the likely cause of the outbreak, which has sickened 168 people, including 46 who had to be hospitalized.

The Health Department confirmed this afternoon that it was able to embargo the frozen scallops before they were sent out from the Oahu warehouse of another distributor, True World Food, and none of that product went to Genki Sushi restaurants on Maui or Hawaii island.

“It looks like the probable cause of this outbreak is imported frozen scallops that were served raw at Genki Sushi restaurants on Oahu and Kauai,” Pressler said today. “As soon as we determined that was the probable cause we notified Genki Sushi and asked them to close their Oahu and Kauai restaurants immediately. We also embargoed the frozen scallop product so that it wouldn’t be further distributed throughout the state.”

State Epidemiologist Dr. Sarah Park advised anyone who has eaten at Genki Sushi recently, especially if they had scallops, to contact their health care provider about getting the hepatitis A vaccine or immune globulin, which can prevent the disease if given within two weeks of exposure. She also advised them to watch for symptoms of the disease for up to 50 days.

Genki Sushi, like other restaurants, has been cooperating with the Health Department as authorities tried to trace possible food or drink items that could have triggered the outbreak. But the order to shut down late Monday came as a surprise.

“Genki Sushi was shocked when we received the order to immediately close our restaurants on Oahu and Kauai,” said Mary Hansen, chief administrative officer of Genki Sushi USA Inc. “Genki Sushi cares about the public and our customers health and safety. We immediately complied with the order late Monday afternoon.”

“We will continue to work with the Department of Health to ensure that we are compliant so that we can open our restaurants as soon as possible,” Hansen said. “We want to thank the public and our customers for their continued support.”

The company has 10 restaurants on Oahu and one on Kauai. The restaurants are being sanitized from top to bottom, all food supplies are being destroyed and single-use items such as napkins and cups are being thrown away under oversight of the Health Department, according to Peter Oshiro, Sanitation Branch Chief.

“Genki Sushi in Hawaii has a history of good compliance with food safety regulations which includes good employee hygiene,” Oshiro said. “We will continue to work with Genki Sushi Restaurants to ensure their safe operation after the investigation is completed.”

Health officials said today that they have been in contact with the Hawaii office of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, which regulates imported food, to investigate the product origin.

Hepatitis A is a liver disease spread through contaminated food or drink, or by close personal contact with a carrier. The symptoms, which can appear weeks after exposure, include fatigue, nausea and vomiting, abdominal pain, loss of appetite, a low-grade fever, dark urine, joint pain and jaundice — a yellowing of the skin and eyes.

All the cases identified in the outbreak so far are adults. The first began showing symptoms on June 12, and could have been exposed as far back as mid-April, since the disease has a long incubation period. The most recent onset of illness was Aug. 1.

The vast majority of cases have been on Oahu. Eight individuals who came down with the disease live on the islands of Hawaii, Kauai and Maui, while one visitor has returned to the mainland.

Brant Mauk, 31, of Pearl City was hospitalized in July after contracting hepatitis A. Prior to his illness, Mauk frequented Genki Sushi, where he usually ordered scallops.

“I am happy that the source was found so that we can stop the spread of hepatitis A and implement new procedures to prevent this type of outbreak (from) happening again,” Mauk said Monday night.

A team from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, who arrived in Hono­lulu on Aug. 7, has been helping with the investigation. State health officials have also been working with the U.S. Department of Agriculture to identify problems with food products elsewhere and to examine distributors and food establishments locally that might have received the suspected products.


A list of vaccination locations in Hawaii is at

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    • From Koha’s Official Web page…

      “Koha Foods was established on January 1, 1984 in Honolulu, Hawaii. We have specialized in importing food items and supplies from Asia to Hawaii for more than 30 years….

      From food items like frozen seafood, oriental side dishes, snacks, and noodles, to food supplies such as plastic bowls, sushi bento, chopsticks, we pride ourselves in importing quality product from across Asia, including Korea, Japan, China, India, Indonesia, the Philippines, and Vietnam.”

    • An argument should be made that the expansion of the Federal preserve/monument will only increase the dependency of Hawaii consumers on foreign sources of all seafood. The Hep A outbreak traced to the imported frozen scallops only shows how much the people of Hawaii are put at risk when dealing with foreign sourced food that is not properly handled or inspected.

      A friend of mine who worked for the US Embassy in Indonesia was inspecting an exporter of fish products to the US. The factory conditions he found were appalling and found boxes marked “JAPAN”. He shut down that exporter in a heartbeat, but not before he was offered a significant bribe not to do so.

      The same can be said for some of the terrible conditions of other seafood imported from China, Vietnam, Thailand and the Philippines which put American consumers at risk every day. From unsafe food handling practices, bacteria laden ponds and rampant use of antibiotics, we are playing Russian roulette with our consumption of foreign seafood. The anti-GMO folks would be up in arms if they only knew what they are eating every day.

  • I guess if we stop consuming scallops we should be okay but I want to know where the scallops originated, where they were packed and who else Koha Oriental Foods and True World Foods distribute to. Aren’t these basic questions that should have answers by the time of the news conference?

    • Important question. A previous article said that although the authorities confirmed the scallops, they cannot say that’s the only source at this point.

    • Seems like it. Potentially a bad frozen batch of hep A scallops prepared by a foreigner who used the bathrooms and never wash his hands good. Doesn’t mean all scallops are bad. In fact, should have good discount on scallops right now.

      • don’t believe the contamination was from a human but the scallops were raised in contaminated water so all of the scallops from that area are contaminated.

  • It’s hard to believe these two distributers only supplied Genki with this product. Are they sure this product is the source of the infection and if so, whether there are any other products involved?

  • Still cannot assume no other foods involved. That’s why Genki has to throw ALL of their food and supplies away due to possible cross contamination. Wow! Big bucks costing them. But better to be safe than sorry. Heard DOH say they also gotta sanitize the restaurants from top to bottom. guess once they re-open they will be really clean and safe to eat at. Agree they need to let us know who else these distributors supply. Wonder if they will make these distributors destroy their entire inventory and have their employees tested? So much more DOH needs to do.

    • Also, if the source of Hep A is not the restaurant itself, shouldn’t the source be the distributor? Shouldn’t the distributor be the one to be cleaning out their warehouses and sanitizing too?

  • Have all the confirmed Hepatitis A cases been definitely linked to the tainted scallops, i. e. did all these infected people eat the scallops? Or did some infected people have direct physical contact with people that ate scallops to get infected? With the long incubation period, there can be people unknowingly infected that are exposing other people. Shouldn’t anyone who actually ate the tainted scallops get tested for Hepatitis A rather than just getting the vaccination? If people just wait for symptoms, if they are actually already infected, they may be exposing or infecting others. How about the other establishments that had infected workers? Are the people who ate at those still considered exposed? How does the general public know whether they have been exposed?

    • That’s the hard part about hep A. The guys doing the infecting and shedding virus many times feel just fine. You never know. The best action is vaccination. Most kids already vaccinated

  • Article updated at 1:30 p.m. Doo dy tainted scallops from the Philippines.

    Like the episode from Seinfeld where George did not get hired because he refused to eat a chocolate cake at a restaurant prepared by a guy he had a run in at a clothing store, the new rule to obtain the health green card is the inspector will randomly choose a menu item and a small sample plate has to be prepared and the manager or owner must eat the sampler in front of the health inspector. If the manager refuses, like George Constanza, they will get the health red card. Time for Restaurant owners or managers to own up and put skin in the game or poo in the bowl that the food they serve is safe for public consumption.

  • Can a restaurant be sanitized, once it has been contaminated. Can other foods be contaminated just being stored in the same fridge? Could be life threatening for individuals with compromised immune system???

    • Hep A is actually better than B or C. Most healthy people have no problems. Mild GI symptoms. Some can have more problems. The more health problems you have the worse it is.

      Yes, the restaurant can be sanitized effectively with disinfectant especially bleach.

  • Genki representative Mary Hansen is quoted as saying that the company complied immediately with the Dept of Health order to close down operations Minday afternoon. However, KGMB news reported from the Pearl City Genki restaurant as late as about 8:30 pm Monday evening, that this location was still open and serving customers. Interviews on TV with the customers indicated that they were not aware that the source of Hep A was from raw scallops served at Genki. There appears to be a discrepancy in what Genki stated as to the time all restaurant operations were ceased and what KGMB news featured last night.

      • Doesn’t matter what they were serving. If the State Dept of Health issues a cease and desist order in the interest of public health, you follow the edict and close immediately. Also, if the company spokesperson said they closed all locations in the afternoon after being instructed by the Dept of Health, having one restaurant still open @ 8:30 pm is simply irresponsible.

        There is always the danger of cross contamination. Did you see the news tonight? All of the Genki locations affected are sanitizing the premises extensively. They are throwing out all food and other items that can come into contact with food such as napkins, chop sticks, etc. Let’s say they weren’t serving scallops at all, would you eat there without the sanitizing process?

  • If those same scallops were deep fried would there still be a contamination risk? I love sushi, but anybody that puts a raw, previously frozen scallop in their mouth is taking their chances. Yuck!

  • Frozen shellfish from the Philippines, thawed out and served raw. Really? As the staff at the Waipio said, “We’re closing soon so order up now.” Really?

    • Yes, SA been updating the headline and story all day long. The reference to Philippines in the headline and story wasn’t available when I posted my comment at 10:03 a.m., AFTER Nuuanu Sam’s post. Early stories didn’t mention Koha either. I keep reading the story to see if anything new is included.

  • So if scallops are the source and they use the gloves to make scallop dishes and all other dishes, shouldn’t the article just say “If you ate at Genki”, and not “if you ate scallops at Genki.” They put on gloves but process all foods with that one glove. Cross contamination I would think.

    • Could happen. But lower risk. No matter though anyone who ate genke should go get vaccinated before the virus get chance to go live in the body.

  • the law firms are licking their chops……almost certain that kenki; tamashiro; and all the other establishments will be filing a lawsuit to recover their losses and then some (loss of reputation)….hopefully the distributor has adequate insurance

    • Well, that makes at least 2 locations so far opened beyond the reported afternoon closings. And for the one on Oahu, there is video with time and place, plus customer interviews confirming that what Mary Hansen said, which by the way, is also on television video was apparently contrary to her statement. Wow, definite fuel to support law suits against Genki. Lends to credibility of the company. Tonight there was one already reportedly filed against Genki and Koha Foods by an individual that suffered Hep A infection. This plaintiff is being represented by a law firm out of Seattle, Washington.

  • The liberal Honolulu Advertiser a strong supporter for the local Democratic party refused to open their comment line concerning very sad news coming out of the University of Hawaii that they have agreed with the LGBT (homosexuals) to open all restrooms at the University to ALL GENDERS. Shame on the University of Hawaii

    The Bible and the Transgender Restroom Issue

    By Adam Davis

    There are two aspects of the transgender/restroom issue. One is the practical and relates to things like safety, cleanliness, and access to urinals. The other is biblical. But does the Bible, finished nearly 2000 years ago, have anything to say about who can use a modern restroom?

    The Bible does indeed address the core issue of what is involved in legislation that seeks to provide “rights” for people who self-identify as gay, lesbian, or transgender. The idea such legislation effectively endorses is that the individual person is the one who decides what their sexual and gender behavior should be. The Bible says that God is the One who decides how humans are to behave sexually and within the scope of their gender. These two views could not be more diametrically opposed.

    The Bible provides substantial texts that demonstrate God ordaining the sexual and gender behavior of the people created in His image. Genesis 1:27-28 says that God created people as either distinctly male or distinctly female. It should be carefully noted that God did not create people and then let them decide what they would be. Gender is an “or” proposition, not a “both/and” proposition. Psalm 139:13 (referring to God) declares “…you knit me together in my mother’s womb…”Deuteronomy 22:5 says, “A woman must not wear men’s clothing, nor a man wear women’s clothing, for the Lord your God detests anyone who does this.” These are just a few of the Scriptures that speak against the idea that man should decide his gender and role within his gender. The entire Biblical context is that of men and women each operating within the biology given to them by the one true God who created all things.

    All people have a proclivity to sin of some kind. Maybe that sinful proclivity is theft, lying, or idolatry. The sin is not the temptation; it is the indulgence of the temptation into mental and/or physical manifestation. Simply because a person has inclinations to act like the opposite gender does not give that person license to indulge the behavior. A person may be inclined to covet the material things of their neighbor (“keeping up with the Joneses”) but the Christian understands this unchecked desire to be the sin of coveting. The inclination to accumulate material things is not the sin per se, it is the actualization.

    Sin is when one actualizes their own desires that are contrary to God’s desires; such actions are the equivalent to saying “God, I know better than you do. I am my own god.” This is exactly what occurs when a person says they really are a different gender than their biology indicates. Such was the state of the first sin of man (Genesis 3:1-14), where Adam and Eve acted upon their desires be like God.

    One could also argue from natural law that transgenderism is wrong, but leave that aside for now. How a person understands pro-LGBT legislation will ultimately depend on what they think of the Bible. If a person genuinely believes that the Bible is the Word of God, then the moral and ethical commands contained within it cannot be parsed over like a buffet, taking what one likes and leaving what one doesn’t like. God’s revelation to man is a reflection of the very nature of the Creator Himself. Therefore, to think one knows better than God does about how to use the bodies He created is a slap in God’s face.

    Only with a non-Christian worldview is it even conceivable that a one should choose what gender they are , and hence what public bathroom they can use. Only by denying God’s sovereignty and creative decree can one think that God made a mistake in their gender. And it is only by denying the Bible itself that one can think God has not been crystal clear in how to think about these important issues of our day.

    There are several ways one could respond to the issue of the LGBT movement. First, the Bible says “you shall love your neighbor as yourself” (Deuteronomy 6:5, Luke 10:37). Of course, loving somebody does not mean agreeing with or condoning sin. It means one should act with kindness and grace at all times in willing the good of another person. This means dialogue should be held respectfully, with a genuine listening ear. It must also be made clear that disagreement is not hatred.

    It should also be clear that once a person invokes “rights” (as in “I have a right to do X”), that person is invoking an objective grounding for rights which the Christian correctly understands as God. The right to one’s life or property does not come from man. If such rights came from man they would be subject to constant change. If a person does not think rights are subject to constant change, then they are appealing to an objective source of those rights. Hence, the ultimate starting point for a substantive conversation on any LGBT issue is God. It is impossible to remove God from the conversation, because rights are invoked and because all laws are ultimately based on morality, and the source of objective morality is God.

    The great news in this whole sea change of culture is that God loves beyond measure and pours out His mercy when none is even remotely warranted. That God would condescend and reveal Himself in Holy Scripture is just an element of His infinite grace. The Bible should then be the starting point for any consideration of the North Carolina law situation or other issues and dialogue. But the absolute best response to the LGBT issue is simply the unvarnished Gospel of Jesus Christ: “For our sake He made Him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God” (2 Corinthians 5:21).

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