Staff at Noodlebox’s Uptown location have responded after allegations that they delivered moldy food to a customer were posted on social media earlier this month.
On May 11, a post by Monika Reniero on the ‘Victoria Rant & Rave’ Facebook group contained screenshots of a complaint that her daughter sent to Noodlebox over Facebook Messenger.
The post also mentioned an earlier incident in which they found pieces of metal that appeared to come off a metal scrubbing utensil.
According to the screenshots, Reniero’s daughter ordered a Chinese style fried rice box for her 13-month-old son through Skip the Dishes, a food delivery app.
The order specified that the fried rice should not include any protein. But Reniero’s daughter says when she scooped the rice onto her son’s high chair, she discovered what appeared to be pieces of moldy chicken (pictured).
On May 12, Reniero said in a Facebook comment that they had received a phone call from a Noodlebox Uptown staff member, and were told that what they thought was mold was in fact discolouration from the purple cabbage included in the dish.
“We explained we thought that first too. My husband is a red seal chef, and my daughter’s boyfriend is a cook as well. So they checked it carefully, and it is mold [sic],” Reniero wrote.
In a Facebook message to Victoria Buzz, Reniero’s daughter, who asked that she remain anonymous, said the food “reeked like rotting meat” when her boyfriend broke it open.
Noodlebox says claims are false
In a statement to Victoria Buzz, Jim Hayden, managing partner of the Noodlebox locations in the Greater Victoria area, said the claims of moldy food made by Reniero and her daughter are “completely false.”
For one, Hayden says the pieces of food that appear to be moldy in the photos aren’t chicken at all—they’re pieces of egg ribbon.
The egg ribbon is a mixture of egg whites and egg yolks that is then fried on a flat top and cut into strips. Noodlebox gives customers the option of adding chicken, beef, pulled pork, and other protein to their boxes, but the fried rice box includes egg ribbon in its base ingredients.
“The dish doesn’t contain a protein unless that’s supplied otherwise,” Hayden said.
He restated that the discolouration of the pieces of eggs comes from the purple cabbage that was, until recently, included in the dish.
“We’ve removed purple cabbage from our lineup,” Hayden said. “It wasn’t mould, it wasn’t chicken, but nonetheless it doesn’t look that appealing.”
Hayden told Victoria Buzz that when they received the complaint from Reniero’s daughter, they responded right away with a phone call to remedy the situation.
Hayden says he offered to bring Reniero and her daughter to the Uptown location to see how they prepare the dish firsthand, but that the family declined. Reniero offered a similar account in her Facebook comments.
Reniero’s daughter said they didn’t take up Hayden’s offer for a tour because they didn’t think it would have proved anything.
“I wasn’t going to go down there to have a look around considering he would have plenty of time to clean up anything that would make him look bad before I got there,” she said.
“That conversation was difficult, to say the least,” Hayden says. “They were abrasive towards me, so it was difficult to get the points I stand behind across to them.”
Hayden said the complaints were disheartening for him and his staff. “We go above and beyond as a company to ensure our products are thoroughly inspected [and] make sure it’s being done above industry standard,” Hayden said.
Island Health inspections show low risk
In speaking with Hayden, two health inspections were brought up as evidence that Noodlebox was properly storing and maintaining its ingredients.
A routine inspection on May 1, 2018, said the restaurant was following food storage practices and labelling procedures, and was given a low hazard rating.
A second inspection took place on May 11 as a result of Reniero’s complaint. While Vancouver Island Health Association does not release reports arising from customer complaints, a VIHA spokesperson told Victoria Buzz that the second inspection “went well,” and there was no follow-up planned.
On Dec. 11, 2017, a health inspection listed a critical violation related to “inadequate cooling and refrigerated storage of potentially hazardous food.”
A second follow-up on Dec. 19 showed that the violations had been corrected.