St. Petersburg, Florida -- China Pearl is known for its New York style takeout. Located on the corner of 34th Street and Central Avenue in St. Petersburg, it advertises great tasting food cooked with no monosodium glutamate (MSG).
But a state health inspector recently reported finding "large amounts" of MSG in the kitchen -- and that's not all they found.
Inspectors showed up last month after receiving a complaint about food borne illness from two customers who ate at the restaurant. Once inside, they found 53 violations, including employee's not washing their hands then touching ready-to-eat foods without wearing gloves.
They also found sewage backing up through the floor drains, a foul odor coming from the restroom, temperature violations on the fried chicken and cooked pasta, and rodent activity. More than 300 rodent droppings were reportedly found in an upstairs storage area.
10 News stopped by to see if conditions have improved. Manager Dan Fang Zhu let us take a look around, but we found plenty of remaining issues. The main hand washing sink was blocked by fried chicken, potato starch, and a bag of rice. Worse yet, there was no splash guard to protect all the food stored nearby, which was a repeat violation written up by the state.
We also spotted uncovered food stored on the floor, both in the walk-in cooler and out in the middle of the kitchen. Back by the mop sink, we found more rodent droppings in the same area the state found problems a week earlier.
Gabrielle Hawkins likes China Pearl's chicken wings and shrimp fried rice, but she said she made a U-turn when she saw a state health inspector shutting the place down. She's also bothered by the restaurant's claim it's using MSG only in its own food, not the customers' food.
"I am very bothered...because my family, my mom, is allergic to MSG. And we eat here all the time."
When 10 News said told her about the restaurant claims, she said, "I don't believe it."
Gabrielle said she plans to warn others and she won't be back.