E. coli linked to restaurant Pho 75, adds to history of violations

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AURORA, Colo. -- Noah Thompson, 14, has spent this month in the ICU at Rocky Mountain Hospital for Children.

“This has been a real struggle for us as a family,” said Marc Thompson, Noah's father.

That struggle began when Thompson took his family to eat at Pho 75 on May 24. Within hours, he and his wife felt stomach pain and had digestive problems, but a few days later, Noah experienced much more severe symptoms.

“They immediately admitted him into the emergency room as he was going into kidney failure," Marc Thompson said. "He had severe pancreatitis.”

The Colorado Department of Health and Environment said it is investigating an outbreak of E. coli (Strain 0157) at Pho 75. Noah is the only person hospitalized, but there are three more confirmed cases and the potential for others that have gone unreported.

The Department of Health also indicated the restaurant is working with the Tri-County Health Department to address the issue. The restaurant closed voluntarily Friday.

When the FOX31 Denver Problem Solvers visited Pho 75 on Saturday, it was closed, but the sign on the door notified customers that it was for remodeling.

Though the doors were locked, there were three men eating at tables inside but none of them would come to the door to speak about the E. coli outbreak.

When the Problem Solvers visited the other Pho 75 location a few miles away, which shares the same owner, an employee inside had a different answer.

Employee: "(The owner) is on a vacation right now. They went back to Vietnam for a week.”

Reporter: “Is there a manager in charge?”

Employee: “Manager? No. Just the owner.”

Reporter: "OK because they closed the restaurant down.”

Employee: “Yep. Because they’re on their vacation right now.”

Reporter: “The State Health Department says it’s because of E. coli.”

Employee: “MmmHmm.”

“To me it seems like either they’re trying to hide something, or they just don’t want anybody to know," Marc Thompson said. "It just seems kind of fishy to me.”

The restaurant is well known to health inspectors and the Problem Solvers, getting an "F" on our Restaurant Report Card in 2014.

When reporter Heidi Hemmat spoke to the owner at the time, Uyen Nguyen claimed everything had been corrected.

"It is safe to eat (here), we have no problem at all," he said.

According to Tri-County Health inspection records, Pho 75 continues to rack up critical violations, specifically for food-borne illness risk. The violations range from issues with the storage of raw meat to employee hygiene.

“After reading reviews on them and seeing they’ve had multiple problems, I’m just … I’m scared to death to eat there," Marc Thompson said.

Before speaking to the Problem Solvers, Thompson said his son finally got his first bit of good news from doctors. He had just been cleared to eat his first solid food of the month.

Doctors also said they expected him to turn the corner. Despite the positive news, Noah Thompson is still days, possibly weeks, away from going home.

"It was really scary to see my child go through this and I just don’t want anybody else to go through this," Thompson said. “If I can help one person from getting this then I’ve done something.”

The Colorado Department of Health and Environment is still working to isolate what exactly caused the E. coli outbreak. It has a survey available online for people who ate at the restaurant and may have become ill.

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