The results are in: It was cabbage, not chicken.

Cheung Lee Express in Fairfield passed its health inspection on Wednesday after a photo taken more than a year ago and posted on Facebook caused a sensation and launched an investigation into claims that the restaurant mishandled raw meat.

A patron of Cheung Lee Express Chinese Restaurant carries food to go at the Fairfield restaurant Thursday. Morning Sentinel photo by Rich Abrahamson

Tong Jiang, who has owned the restaurant for four years, has never failed a health inspection, according to Robert Long of the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention. That includes the inspection performed on Wednesday.

“This complaint is ‘not observed,'” the report said. “Product handling and food temperatures were all within appropriate guidelines.”

Fairfield resident Justin Trask created the post with the undated photo on Saturday. The photo of a large bowl of indistinguishable contents sitting in the sun outside of the back of the building was taken in September 2018.

“I took these pictures while I sat in the parking lot at Cheung Lee Express in Fairfield, Maine,” the post said. “That is chicken sitting in the sun thawing out and the flies were loving it.”

In a phone interview on Wednesday, Trask said that he was reminded of the incident when he was going through old photos recently and decided to post it. Trask didn’t include the date the photo was taken in his Facebook post.

“I looked at the date and the photo was taken Sept. 27, 2018,” Trask said. “A lot happened to me that day, other things took priority, so that’s why I didn’t post it then, but I was going through old photos recently and thought it was something I should’ve shared.”

Jiang said that Trask’s accusations were false because the bowl in the photo was full of white cabbage and not chicken.

“That wasn’t chicken. It’s common sense. Who would leave chicken outside in the sun and then serve it?” Jiang said. “That was a bowl of white cabbage that the kitchen was preparing for us, the staff, to eat. That’s a common thing to do when preparing vegetables in China, put them in the sunlight to dry out.”

Mei Cheung of Cheung Lee Express Chinese Restaurant fields orders for carry out food Thursday while working at the Fairfield restaurant. Morning Sentinel photo by Rich Abrahamson

Trask said he was with his sister, Jasmine Nicholas, on the day he took the picture more than a year ago. In a phone interview on Wednesday, Nicholas backed up Trask’s claims that the bowl contained chicken and not vegetables.

“It was definitely chicken,” she said.

However, the inspector’s report corroborated Jiang’s claims.

“The 2018 photograph that triggered the complaint appears to be white cabbage being prepared for employee personal consumption, prepared in a specific cultural manner,” the report said. “There is no white cabbage on the licensee menu or within store recipes.”

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