Hoi An banh mi shop owner suffers mental breakdown after mass food poisoning

By Dac Thanh   September 15, 2023 | 06:28 pm PT
Hoi An banh mi shop owner suffers mental breakdown after mass food poisoning
Truong Thi Phuong (R), owner of Ms. Phuong banh mi stall in Hoi An, waits as health authorities take food samples for testing after her customers suffer mass food poisoning, September 13, 2023. Photo by Quang Nam's Department of Health
The owner of Ms. Phuong's, the Hoi An eatery that sent 141 people, including 33 foreign tourists, to hospital with food poisoning, said she has suffered a mental breakdown.

Truong Thi Phuong, 60, claimed: "Since the food poisoning happened, I have been mentally depressed and there were times I did not want to eat anything. I only prayed for all patients to recover quickly."

The owner of a banh mi, or Vietnamese baguette sandwich, stall that has been running for 34 years and is popular among foreign tourists, told VnExpress that she personally supervises the entire process of buying raw materials and processing and selling them every day.

She buys the breads from a bakery near her house, ingredients like pate, shumai and char siu made from pork and vegetables from shops in Hoi An Market.

Her staff make the egg sauce.

Her husband has made the food and she has supervised for 34 years, and the staff only wash vegetables and sell the banh mi to customers.

Health authorities periodically inspect the stall for food safety and hygiene.

"The mass food poisoning was a huge cost for me. No one wants such incidents to happen. I have learned my lesson and I will be more careful," Phuong said.

On September 11, when the food poisoning episode occurred, her shop sold over 1,900 sandwiches.

Phuong claimed that all the ingredients and breads were carefully selected as usual on that day.

Health inspectors call out hygiene

A team of health inspectors that came to the eatery on September 13 said its cooking area did not meet hygiene requirements, and it stored raw materials and food together.

The shop had saved samples of pate, lettuce, cucumber, basil, onion, pork patties, char siu pork, and shumai, and health authorities have sent them to the Pasteur Institute in Nha Trang for testing.

Egg sauce and bread were sold out and so there were no samples.

On Friday the Quang Nam Province Department of Health said 141 people had been hospitalized with symptoms of headache, fever, abdominal pain, and diarrhea.

Most have stabilized and no one is on a ventilator, it said.

Banh mi usually contains cold cuts and vegetables such as coriander, cucumber, pickled carrots, and daikon, and French condiments such as pate and mayonnaise.

There are also variations that use cha lua (Vietnamese pork bologna), fried eggs, grilled pork, and meat balls.

Ms.Phuong’s is an international media darling.

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