State approves reopening of Genki Sushi restaurants on Oahu, Kauai

After being found as one of the reasons for a major hepatitis A outbreak on Oahu, and nearly a month after closing, Genki Sushi plans to re-open all 10 of its restaurants on Oahu Saturday.

The only Genki Sushi restaurant on Kauai that was also shut down remained closed to complete renovations and will reopen on Friday, Sept. 16.

The state Department of Health gave the restaurant chain the green light to open back up for business Friday. “The restaurants have thoroughly completed health department requirements and are ready to reopen safely for food service operations,” a statement read.

“The department is confident that they are in compliance with all health regulations,” said Health Director Virginia Pressler.

All of the Oahu restaurants and the only one on Kauai were shut down August 16 once health officials figured out that Genki Sushi served raw, tainted scallops from the Philippines that caused the outbreak. So far, more than 252 people got sick and 66 of them had to stay in the hospital.

So what assurances do customers have that it’s safe to eat there?

Peter Oshiro, the head of the state’s food safety program at the DOH, said the Genki Sushi restaurants underwent a rigorous sanitation process. The affected restaurants had to dispose any potentially affected items.

“We are very comfortable with them opening,” he said. “We are confident that, as for the hep A outbreak is concerned, that it is over.

“Both ourselves and Genki wanted to make sure we that we didn’t rush into this and open as quickly as possible without regards of public health,” Oshiro said, “so I think we were both very cautious both at Genki Sushi and the department. We wanted to make sure everything was right and make sure this outbreak doesn’t spread any more than it does.”

In a statement released after the DOH made the announcement Friday, a restaurant spokesperson said that “While DOH directives only called for the disposal of opened containers or packages of food items that may have been exposed, Genki Sushi made the decision to discard all produce and food items that could have been exposed, and sanitized sealed food packages as specified by the DOH. In addition, all single-serve equipment or utensils such as napkins, chopsticks, cups and takeout containers were also discarded.”

The restaurant chain also stated that they “will also work with all its vendors to improve food safety policies and procedures.”

All of the 350-plus restaurant employees had to be tested for hepatitis A and vaccinated. “None of our employees tested positive for the virus and we are happy that they can get back to work,” CAO Mary Hansen said. In response to those who fell ill, Hansen added that “our hearts go out to those who have the illness and hope for their speedy recovery.”

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