Japanese steak house closes weeks after meth found in soy sauce

PACE, Fla. — The owners of a Japanese steak house on Florida’s Panhandle announced on Friday that the restaurant is closing, weeks after an investigation determined that some soy sauce had been contaminated with methamphetamine.

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The Nikko Japanese Steak and Sushi Bar in Pace was investigated by the Santa Rosa County Sheriff’s Office after seven people were hospitalized after eating at the restaurant on June 10, WKRG-TV reported.

Detectives said that two soy sauce bottles and unopened to-go packets of the condiment that were tested came back positive for methamphetamine, according to the television station.

The seven patients were tested and treated at the Santa Rosa Medical Center, WEAR-TV reported. Blood work determined that they had ingested a drug, and the food was also tested at the hospital and also came back positive, according to the sheriff’s office.

“You get scared obviously,” Santa Rosa County Sheriff Bob Johnson told the television station. “It worries you that somebody may be tampering with food service and things of that nature.”

No charges were filed because deputies were “unable to determine who contaminated the food due to a lack of witness observations and surveillance footage,” WKRG reported.

On Friday, the owners of the restaurant announced in a Facebook post that the business would be closing after more than 10 years, according to WALA-TV. They wrote that the restaurant was shuttering because they were “unable to sustain the cost to stay open.”

The owners said they had cooperated with authorities, but said that they have been “brutally harassed” by various media outlets.

“We have been investigated, searched, and questioned while fully cooperating at all times. That’s all we could do,” the owners wrote. “Today, a family-owned and operated business is closed, (and) 20 employees are out of work, all because of the power of social media.”

The owners in the Facebook post were not identified, but the Pensacola News Journal determined through state business documents that the restaurant owner is Ursula Pinho. She declined comment to the newspaper when contacted in June, according to the newspaper.

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