GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) – It started with a quick visit by young cousins to a Grand Rapids restaurant and ended with a rat tail curled up in a crab rangoon.
“We was hungry, so we walked down there,” Lorantay McIntosh said.
McIntosh and his cousin, Milton Birge, said they bought three crab rangoons to split.
“I used to love them things, but…” McIntosh said.
He said they each ate one, and planned to split the third.
“Then the third one we opened up, it had the little tail in there,” he said. “Eww. That was nasty.”
McIntosh’s aunt, Trayna Birge, brought the crab rangoon to the Kent County Health Department the next day — in June 2015, health department records show.
“The tail was like about that long,” Trayna Birge said, spreading her fingers a few inches apart.
Target 8 reviewed all of the nearly 700 complaints filed in the last three years against Kent County’s restaurants and other licensed food establishments.
During that time, complaints have grown 30 percent — fueled, perhaps in part, by the highly publicized closing of XO Asian Cuisine in 2016.
“There is a real possibility in this area that there has been a heightened awareness to food safety due to a recent restaurant shutdown,” health department spokesman Steve Kelso said.
Target 8 found meals that came with extras: fingernails, a drywall screw, a staple, a bulletin board push pin in a taco salad, bandages on pizza, in a burger and in a basket of fries, a cockroach on a burger, a cockroach floating in coffee, and rat and mouse droppings in food.
Then, there’s the March 2014 complaint after a Kent County sheriff’s deputy investigated an overnight alarm at Fuji Yama on East Beltline Avenue NE in Grand Rapids Township. He found about a dozen fish drying on a rope strung up on the roof, records show.
A health inspector told the manager not to let it happen again.
“It does seem a little odd, but you know, I can’t guess or say why somebody would hang fish up on the roof,” Kent County Health Department Supervisor Max Bjorkman said.
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In the case of the reported rat tail, Target 8 is not identifying the restaurant because health officials said they couldn’t confirm how it got in the crab rangoon.
“Those are really hard when you get those complaints,” Bjorkman said.
A health department sanitarian described it as a “crab rangoon that had something long and fuzzy in it.”
“They took pictures of it and everything,” said the woman who turned it in. “It was fried inside of the cream stuff that be in the middle, it was right in there, inside of the cream.”
Days later, the county found filthy conditions and a few mouse droppings in the restaurant, but no mention of rats, inspection records show. It recommended the restaurant hire a pest-control company.
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Two weeks later, inspectors found the restaurant clean and with no signs of rodents.
It was the restaurant’s second rat-related complaint. The year before, a woman claimed she found rat droppings in her pork fried rice.
Target 8 showed a photograph of the rat tail rangoon to the restaurant’s owners — a married couple.
“Oh, my God,” the woman said.
She called it “One hundred percent impossible.”
“This really doesn’t make sense,” her husband said.
The owners showed Target 8 how they make each rangoon by hand with ingredients taken right from the cooler, then return them to another cooler before deep-frying them.
They said it could not be an accident; that it had to be intentional.
“This is not mine,” the woman said. “One hundred percent not mine.”
Since the rat tail complaint, conditions at the restaurant have improved. Records show inspectors found just critical violations last year, the kinds that can make you sick, but none involving rodents.
Still, one of the cousins who said he discovered the rat tail has sworn off his old favorite — crab rangoons.
“I almost threw up,” McIntosh said. “I never bought one ever since.”