The Rhode Island Department of Health has had their hands full these past few months. First they dealt with a severe Salmonella outbreak linked to zeppoles made by DeFusco’s Bakery that caused 79 illnesses and 2 deaths. Now, health officials have discovered mouse droppings and other serious food safety violations in a Cranston sushi restaurant.

On Monday, May 23, 2011, Rhode Island health officials inspected Uncle Sushi and Grill in Cranston, Rhode Island after receiving reports of eight individuals who became sick with nausea, abdominal cramps, vomiting, and diarrhea after eating at the restaurant.

According to a report today by Felice Freyer of the Providence Journal, health inspectors found several violations including:

  • norwalk(1).gifMouse droppings were found in flour, jimmies and noodles and on the doilies on which sushi is served.
  • Vinegar was being stored in container previously used for laundry detergent.
  • Rice was kept at room temperature in a turned-off cooker.
  • The restaurant does not employ a full-time manager certified in food safety.
  • A microwave had dried food accumulation.
  • Tubular lights were lacking shields
  • Scooters, toys, powder and wipes were found in the kitchen area, suggesting that a child was allowed in the kitchen area and diapers were changed there.

As a result of the Health Department’s findings, the restaurant has been shut down. Annemarie Beardsworth, spokeswoman for the Rhode Island Department of Health, explained that although the restaurant owner, Thong Den Vongvixay, closed the restaurant voluntarily, a compliance order would be issued to ensure that it does not reopen until all violations are corrected.

As part of the investigation, the Health Department collected stool samples from all of the employees at Uncle Sushi and Grill. Ms. Beardsworth confirmed that, so far, three samples have tested positive for norovirus. Based on the symptoms of those sickened and the results of the stool cultures, health officials feel confident that the 8 reported illnesses were caused by norovirus.

In her report, Felice Freyer noted that “[t]he restaurant, at 570 Reservoir Ave., opened in January 2005 and was last inspected on April 22, 2009. Rhode Island has only seven food inspectors for 8,000 establishments and cannot keep up with routine inspections.”

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the illness caused by norovirus is usually brief.  It develops 24 to 48 hours after contaminated food or water is ingested and lasts for 24 to 60 hours.  Usual symptoms of norovirus infection include nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and abdominal pain.  Headache and low-grade fever may also accompany this illness. People infected with norovirus usually recover in two to three days without serious or long-term health effects. However, in some cases, severe dehydration, malnutrition, and even death can result from norovirus infection, especially among children and among older and immunocompromised adults in hospitals and nursing homes. To learn more about norovirus virus visit