Health officials in Hawaii have named imported scallops, served raw at sushi restaurants, as the “likely source” of the hepatitis A outbreak on the islands. This is based on evidence gathered and analyzed during a two-month investigation. The press release states there is a “strong association” between a majority of cases in the outbreak and frozen imported scallops served raw at Genki Sushi Restaurants.
Health Director Dr. Virginia Pressler said in a statement, “after determining the strong probable link between the majority of cases, the department immediately notified Genki Sushi Restaurants, ordered the embargo of the frozen scallop product, and the closure of all Oahu and Kauai facilities. The business has complied with all orders, contacted all of their Hawaii restaurants, and is working with the department to ensure the safety of its customers. Our staff is in the field today working with distributors to embargo the product.”
The Hawaii Department of Health has ordered the embargo of all frozen scallop products distributed by Koha Oriental Foods and True World Foods in Hawaii. Genkin Sushi Restaurants on the islands of Oahu and Kauai had received, handled, and served the product, so those establishments were ordered to close immediately.
There are no hepatitis A cases related to recent shipments, but because public health officials are uncertain about the safety of the scallops, all scallop products sent to these restaurants were embargoed. And product tracing is being conducted to locate all foods that may be contaminated with the virus.
Foods imported to Hawaii are regulated by the FDA, so the Hawaii Department of Health has been in contact with that agency to investigate the product origin. Peter Oshiro, Sanitation Branch Chief, said, “Genki Sushi in Hawaii has a history of good compliance with food safety regulations which includes good employee hygiene. We will continue to work with Genki Sushi Restaurants to ensure their safe operation after the investigation is completed.”
Genki Sushi Restaurants on Oahu and Kauai will remain closed until the Department of Health can ensure they are safe. All frozen scallop products from distributors Koha Oriental Foods and True World Foods are being impounded and will be destroyed.
Dr. Sarah Park, State Epidemiologist, said, “we are gratified to uncover this major piece of the investigation. My staff have been persistent and tireless in their search for clues to prevent new cases and put an end to the outbreak. Our investigation continues, as we work to confirm our findings and ensure contaminated product is no longer in circulation and the risk of transmission is eliminated.”
If you consumed products, specifically scallops, that were prepared or served at Genki Sushi on Oahu or Kauai, consider contacting your doctor about the possibility of getting a hepatitis A or immune globulin vaccine. But if you ate there more than two weeks ago, it’s too late for the vaccination. All you can do is monitor your health for 50 days and go to your doctor if you develop symptoms of the disease.