Restaurant Red Alert: State cracks down on restaurant misrepresenting tuna

1:05 AM, Dec 12, 2013   |    comments
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TAMPA, Florida -- For nearly 40 years, CDB's Pizza has been serving up students near the University of South Florida.

"I hear a lot of people go there," said former customer Rick Krause. "It seems pretty packed during the week."

Expanding with a connected sushi bar next door, CDB's scored a perfect inspection in May. But on November 25, the state documented much different conditions, including temperature violations on the cooked rice and butter found left out overnight at 78 degrees. An employee was spotted not properly washing hands, small flying insects were found in the food prep area, and a toxic chemical was stored right above the food.

So, last week we stopped by to check out the kitchen.

"You can't come in with the camera guys," said an employee who greeted us at the front door. The manager went on to explain the owner was unavailable.

The health inspector also documented "white tuna" on the menu but said the restaurant was instead serving up a less expensive fish called Escolar. The fish is banned in some countries, including Japan. Here in the U.S., the Food and Drug Administration warns against serving it to the public because its high concentration of indigestible wax is known to cause food poisoning-like symptoms.

When asked how she'd feel ordering tuna but getting something else, one customer in the parking lot responded, "Not too happy about it. I don't know how you would know right off the bat."

As we interviewed the customer, the owner who earlier was unavailable suddenly emerged from inside.

"I can shoot you because you make my customers go away," said owner Jackie Xu, who went on to explain there's no such thing as "white tuna," claiming it's a common nickname.

"Every sushi restaurant they put white tuna on the menu because people already know what is white tuna. That just a name," said Xu.

"There was more than just the tuna issue," said 10 News. "There were 50 other violations you guys were written up for, things like not having any soap or paper towels for employees to wash their hands."

Xu blamed all the violations on a new "Asian" health inspector who he said was working toward a promotion by writing up lots of violations.

He eventually allowed our camera inside the kitchen.

"My restaurant is clean," said Xu. "I have no problem with that."

From the sushi bar to the pizza line, we got an all-access tour.

We did find some minor violations, including personal items and vitamins stored above a food prep area. We also spotted what appeared to be improper food storage in the walk-in cooler with eggs stored on top of raw vegetables.

The good news, though, is that many of the 50 violations from November are now corrected. But what about that Escolar advertised at "white tuna?" We asked the owner if that was a concern.

"From what I know, I've been working for restaurant for 17 years. I don't have any problems. Just like anything, if you eat too much you will get in trouble," he said.

And while Xu said calling Escolar "White Tuna" is a common practice, especially among sushi restaurants, it could be his restaurant in trouble with the state cracking down, recommending an administrative complaint in this case, which could result in a hefty fine.

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