Apparent hoax photo targets local eatery

Panda Express at the Queen Ka’ahumanu Center has been a victim of an apparent hoax.

A photo circulating on the Internet and through social media falsely showed what appeared to be a small mouse lying in a white styrofoam container surrounded by bits of leftover food, state health and company officials said Friday.

The state Department of Health conducted an inspection of the eatery at the Queen Ka’ahumanu Center’s food court and “determined that the establishment was fully compliant with no signs of rodents or vermin,” said Health Department Communications Director Janice Okubo in an email.

“Their kitchen was very clean with high standards in sanitation, and the establishment has private pest control inspections conducted regularly,” Okubo added.

The department was notified of the photo on April 1. Okubo said their inspectors had doubts about the photo when they first saw it, noting there were inconsistencies in the image that made it appear to be a possible hoax.

The fake photo had a caption naming the Queen Ka’ahumanu Center eatery as the place where the incident occurred.

Okubo said the eatery reported that the photo shows a white plastic fork when Panda only uses black forks.

“We never wavered in our belief that the truth will come out about this unrelated and insignificant hoax,” said Grace Chou, Maui area coach of operations for Panda Express in an email Friday afternoon. “We are truly grateful and touched by the continued loyalty and support of our guests and community.

“Panda has been proud and honored to serve the Maui community for over 20 years. We take the health and safety of our guests seriously, and this will always remain our priority along with providing fantastic food and service.”

She added that the company will be celebrating its 30th anniversary this year.

Panda will be giving away a free sample of its newest entree “Samurai Surf and Turf” on Wednesday. The coupon is available on the company’s Facebook page.

* Melissa Tanji can be reached at