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Goosebeary’s Closes After Food Poisoning

By Jeffrey Greenbaum


After MIT Medical and Cambridge Hospital treated four MIT students and two members of the community for food poisoning last week, Cambridge Inspection Services closed the Poppa & Goose restaurant and the Goosebeary’s food truck.

Both the Goosebeary’s food truck and the Poppa & Goose food truck prepare their food in Poppa & Goose’s kitchen every morning. Inspectors visited Poppa & Goose restaurant on Tuesday, and subsequently gave the restaurant a list of sanitation violations.

“This is the worst that any food company can experience,” said Tony Vo, a vendor at Goosebeary’s.

Four students report illness

Last Tuesday, four MIT students and two members of the community reported cases of food poisoning after eating at the Goosebeary’s food truck. All six ordered chicken teriyaki.

Although all recovered, some required overnight hospitalization. “I heard that one chap was in [MIT Medical] for two nights,” said Cambridge-MIT Institute exchange student Ben Firbank, who stayed at MIT Medical for a night and a day. Two people sought the attention of the Cambridge Hospital.

“I think that I will give the food trucks a miss for awhile,” Firbank said.

This is not the first time that Goosebeary’s has been the alleged source of food poisoning at MIT. In 1997, the Goosebeary’s truck was believed to be the cause of a dysentery outbreak affecting half a dozen students, apparently because of a faulty warming oven.

Unsanitary conditions discovered

Inspectors from Cambridge Inspection Services visited Poppa & Goose after learning of the illnesses.

Although no cases of food poising resulted from eating at the restaurant itself, inspectors closed the restaurant after discovering a few alarming unsanitary conditions. These included an infestation of the storage room, inadequate hand washing, and poorly washed pots and pans.

Given the volume of business, the inspectors recommended that Poppa & Goose add more space in the kitchen. An inspector told Vo that “the kitchen is too tight for the level of mass-volume business since things stack on top of each other,” Vo said.

As a result, “we are redesigning the restaurant so we can have more space for the kitchen,” Vo said. “We are going to take our time to get it right.” However, Vo also said that he hopes to bring the food truck back to MIT by Wednesday.

In addition, Goosebeary’s will remove six or seven items from items from its menu. “We want to streamline the process by making it less complicated [in the kitchen] with fewer items to prepare,” Vo said.

Vo said that Goosebeary’s will remove items that are less popular such as the fried fish. Chicken teriyaki will not be removed. “We want to concentrate on what we serve well,” Vo said.

Competitors expect boom

With the absence of the Goosebeary’s truck, other food trucks that operate by near the Building 68 anticipate an increase in business. Because Goosebeary’s truck serves a large volume of food, Joe Capuzzo, owner and chef of Jose’s Mexican Restaurant, said that this will affect his business positively. “Now, I’m going to increase my volume percentage ... since I am here to service the faculty and students,” Capuzzo said.

“[Goosebeary’s] food is good ... and their lines are long. They have no excuse since they have such a large volume of food,” Capuzzo said.

Capuzzo said he expects MIT students, faculty, and staff to try other food trucks and discover the newer trucks, including his own. “Of the four trucks, I am the best of them. It just takes time to prove it,” Capuzzo said.

Fawaz Aburubayh, a vendor at Jerusalem Falafel’s food truck, was surprised by how busy he was on Friday. “When [Goosebeary’s] is not here, everybody else becomes busy,” Aburubayh said.

Aburubayh said that “maybe I need some more food” to take advantage of Goosebeary’s absence.

Students mixed on food trucks

Despite the recent problems, some loyal Goosebeary’s customers said that they will not be affected will resume eating at Goosebeary’s when it returns. “I go to Goosebeary’s five time a week,” said Johnny T. Yang ’04. “I do not think that Aramark is the most sanitary, either.”

On Friday, when Goosebeary’s was missing for the first time, some of its customers decided that they were not interested in eating at other food trucks. “I skipped lunch because they were not there,” said Ali Z. Jiwani ’03.

Some Goosebeary’s customers said they would take a break from eating at the food trucks altogether. “It makes the food trucks seem sketchier to me,” said Irene J. Lo ’03.