State IDs Genki Sushi as source of hepatitis
Hawaii News | Top News

State IDs Genki Sushi as source of hepatitis

  • JAMM AQUINO / JAQUINO@STARADVERTISER.COM

    The state Health Department has confirmed that the source of the recent hepatitis A outbreak came from frozen scallops served raw by Genki Sushi restaurants on Oahu and Kauai. The Genki Sushi at Ward Village was closed Monday.

Correction: This story was updated to reflect that Health Department officials said Tuesday that they embargoed frozen raw scallops from Koha Oriental Foods, which had supplied them to Genki Sushi restaurants on Oahu and Kauai. The department also halted distribution of the same product by True World Foods before the company started to supply the scallops to Genki Sushi restaurants on Maui and Hawaii island. No hepatitis A cases have been tied to the True World shipments. An earlier version of this story and in Tuesday’s print edition incorrectly reported that Genki Sushi received the tainted scallops through True World Foods, based on initial information from the health department.

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The state Department of Health ordered the immediate, temporary closure of all Genki Sushi Restaurants on Oahu and Kauai on Monday after determining that the recent hepatitis A outbreak on Oahu was likely due to imported frozen scallops served raw at Genki locations on both islands.

There are 10 Genki Sushi restaurants on Oahu and one on Kauai.

DOH spokeswoman Janice Okubo said the link to scallops served at the restaurants came from an intensive epidemiological investigation.

The final determination that the scallops were the “likely source” came Monday afternoon.

“We moved (to close the restaurants) pretty quickly after that,” Okubo said by telephone.

The Health Department said Tuesday that they had embargoed frozen raw scallops from Koha Oriental Foods, which had supplied them to Genki Sushi restaurants on Oahu and Kauai. The department has also halted distribution of the same product by True World Foods before the company started supplying the scallops to Genki Sushi restaurants on Maui and Hawaii island. They said no hepatitis A cases have been tied to the True World Foods’ scallops and that all the scallops will be destroyed.

Genki representatives were unavailable for comment Monday.

There have been 168 confirmed cases of hepatitis A in the state dating back to June.

According to the department’s Disease Outbreak Control Division, all the cases have been in adults, with 46 of them requiring hospitalization.

The majority of confirmed 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.

The onset of illness for individual cases has ranged between June 12 and Aug. 1.

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.

The DOH has been assisted in its investigation by a team from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, who arrived in Hono­lulu on Aug. 7.

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.

The DOH previously said that identifying the source of infection was particularly challenging because of the long incubation period of the disease and the difficulty patients have in accurately recalling the foods consumed and locations visited during the period when infection could have taken place.

In an effort to prevent the potential spread of the disease, the DOH has been identifying eating establishments that have an employee diagnosed with hepatitis A.

Genki Sushi was not one of the nine business previously identified.

Hepatitis A is a viral ailment affecting the liver that comes from consuming contaminated fruits, vegetables or other foods, or raw shellfish harvested from contaminated water. 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.

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  • Hopefully the state health dept. will disclose who else True World Foods distributed the scallops to. I would also like to know the country of origin of the scallops.

  • 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.

  • Does this rule out other sources of Hepatitis A? Surprisingly why has there not been an immediate advisory to the public on the depth and breadth of people exposed and infected and what people should do now? Why has no statement been made as to whether everyone who ate at the now closed restaurants over a certain period of time deemed exposed and should get tested for Hepatitis A? Since there is a long incubation period, there may be unknowingly infected people out in the public exposing and possibly infecting others. Have all known infected people been confirmed to have eaten the tainted scallops. Have there been any cases of people getting infected through direct contact with someone who ate the bad scallops but did not eat scallops themselves? If a worker at another of the previously named restaurants was infected by eating the bad scallops, would physical contact be required to expose someone or just the handling of food served exposes the public. How do we know who was truly exposed?

  • The Dept of Health, Ms Park, said that restaurants are not the source of the outbreak. The head of the Hawaii Restaurant Association, Mr. Fraser also said not to worry, restaurants are not the source of the outbreak. The Star Advertiser published both of these peoples comments without asking the hard questions. Just gave them a platform that gave their comments legitimacy. No confidence in the Dept of Health. They said not to worry that Hep A isn’t easily transmittable. Then a week later there’s 42 new cases. What aren’t they telling us?

    Genki Sushi is the source. OK, now what? Everything is fine. No worries. Just go about your normal life? Come on Star Advertiser stop acting like a microphone and start doing some serious investigation. This same Dept of Health is responsible for monitoring all of the Biosafety Labs in Hawaii. We are importing some very deadly viruses into this state for research. You think they’re capable of handling that job? I don’t think so. Just wait. We will have an accident at one of these labs and a deadly virus will be released into the community all compliments of the Dept of Health.

    • Restaurants are not the “source” of the outbreak. The scallops were the source. The restaurants were the distribution points. Restaurants are the source if their practices of employee hygiene are responsible for the spreading of Hep A. If frozen strawberries were causing the Hep A, we wouldn’t say Foodland or Costco was the source. Anybody with reasonable intelligence would say that the strawberries, possibly the farm, is the source. And with disease outbreak, being precise with words and terms is of utmost importance.

      • You cannot assume that. If the idea is this company distributed tainted scallops to resaturants or supermarkets beyond Genki Sushi then the public announcement should have been to let the public know the ENTIRE list of Hawaii supermarkets or restaurants that received the scallops. IF Genki Is the ONLY place that received the bad scallops, even though so many Hawaii food places serves or sells scallops, you wonder about the reputation of this particular scallop distributor.

        • Agree. With so many sushi restaurants here, they must distribute to others as well. Yes, list all the businesses they sell to.

  • BTW, since DOH is recommending Hepatitis A vaccine for everybody, they should be aware that those of us on Medicare apparently doesn’t cover Hepatitis A vaccination except in very limited circumstances. Just because our State DOH recommends it is not one of those circumstances. DOH needs to straigthen this out because private pay for the vaccination is pretty expensive. Also, until I think last week it was unclear whether vaccinations would be covered under Medical Benefits or Drug Benefits and Part B supplementals ad Part D have both been trying to escape liability, playing hot potatoe with who is responsible. Assuming DOH can get authority for ALL people to get vaccinations, it also needs to make sure this second question is clarified. DOH shouldn’t just throw out vaccination recommendations without understanding the coverage restrictions and get these restrictions waived for Hawaii where necessary.

    • Totally wrong. It’s not the DoH’s responsibility to know the ins and outs of your healthcare plan. They are giving a RECOMMENDATION. It’s not a mandate or requirement. If you don’t have the shot covered, it’s up to you to decide — based on your own situation — whether to follow the recommendation or not. It’s recommended you wipe your okole after you go #2 as well. But it’s up to you to decide whether you can afford TP or not.

  • Out of the 168 cases, how many people actually ate the raw scallops? Since Hep A is transferrable by contact, people here shake other peoples hands, give hugs, and kiss on cheek. It probably is a small number, but the transferring to other people may spike the number. Now that the product source is known, I hope no other restaurants, grocery stores, vendors here have items from the distributor True World Foods. When you eat out, you don’t know if you will be affected by something like this. We dine at restaurants, or order take out several times a week, so, we never know.

  • Last night KGMB broke this story on its 10:00 pm news. Said that the Dept of Health gave notice to close all Genki locations on Oahu & Kauai @ 6:30 pm. Reporter was on site at the Pearl City Genki location and as late as 8:30 pm that night this location was still open, serving. Patrons interviewed mentioned indicated that none of the Genki staff gave any indication of the notice to cease dinner service. If this news report was true, that is blatant disregard of a Dept of Health edict and very little concern for the health and well being of the customers. I think one customer said that a Genki employee said they had to close because the belt broke?

    • Saw the same newscast. Although Genki itself is NOT the source of the outbreak, their poor way of handling the truth, not even telling their customers, makes me never want to eat there again. I mean, tell the people, NO LIE, tell the truth, and stop servicing ppl. Gee..trying to make their last buck or what? Disappointing.

  • Scallops aren’t the only frozen, thawed, then served raw food Genki serves. They use frozen ahi as well and I find it hard to believe the only product they receive from True World Foods is their scallops. Eat there at your own risk…

    • I agree. Eating out nowadays is like travel abroad! You need to take precautions. Before you travel make sure all your immunizations are up to date as well as your familia’s and your pets. The same should be practiced when eating at local establishments! LOL!

    • This is how rumors and hysteria starts, by unfounded statements. The specialists in the know, here CDC and DoH, did not identify anything else from Genki that was found to be tainted with Hep A, just the scallops. And no I don’t own or work for Genki.

  • Is there a possibility of cross contamination of the Hepatitis A virus to other foods by Genki Sushi workers who prepared the scallops? If that’s the case, everyone who ate there should be checked out and get vaccinated.

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