More customers reporting rodent infestations at eateries

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More customers are reporting suspected health violations at restaurants. And that explains the three red placards issued on Maui in the past week.

Food safety experts say that should serve as a good warning for all eateries to clean up their act.

Rodents are the main culprits that led to the red placards. Experts say the key to preventing an infestation is diligence.

State Department of Health inspectors shut down Ohana Tacos and Barefruit Bar on Maui after discovering an extensive roach infestation. A couple of days later, Paradise Supermart in Kahului received a red placard after inspectors found rat droppings in nearly all the shelves.

“This third one was the result of somebody’s video. I understand that was sent to the department of a rodent in the facility, so that’s what sparked that red placard,” said Peter Oshiro with the State Department of Health.

He says customers have been sending in more reports of suspected health violations. And with the state only able to do routine inspections three times a year for each establishment, the health department appreciates the help.

“Everybody’s got a smartphone, right? So that has really changed the scope so we get actually a lot more hard evidence where people have sent us pictures of things. So it’s very easy for us to act on that,” said Oshiro.

Food Safety expert Peter Bellisario says cleanliness throughout the entire establishment is a must when serving food. And it’s a message that should be crystal clear to customers as soon as they walk in the door.

“When you walk in and it just doesn’t feel clean I would say, huh!” said Bellisario.
“Trust your instincts?” KHON2 asked.
“Trust your instincts is correct,” he said.

He says restaurants should do their own inspections once a month, using a flashlight to check hidden areas where dirt and rodents can thrive.

“A pet peeve of mine is when I go to a restaurant I’ll run my fingers under the front edge of the counter and if it’s a little sticky and yuck, then this place is gonna have a problem,” said Bellisario.

The health department says all three places that were shut down have been issued a yellow placard, meaning they are allowed to reopen after significantly decreasing the infestation. Another follow up inspection is scheduled for next week.

Anyone who wants to report a violation can call the DOH at 586-8000. You can also email pictures to peter.oshiro@doh.hawaii.gov.

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