Going public (not): E. coli outbreak at Chicago restaurant sickened over 100 in June

In June, 2016, people started getting sick after dining at Carbon Live Fire Mexican Grill at 300 W. 26th St., Chicago.

carbon-live-mexican-grillBy July 1, at least 25 people were sick with Shiga-toxin producing E. coli, and the restaurant closed.

Five months later, and cilantro has been fingered as the source.

By the end of the outbreak, 68 people were sickened, 22 of whom were hospitalized. All have since been treated and released.

According to a report from the department of health, cilantro was identified as “food vehicle” that likely caused the outbreak. 

All prepared food was disposed, food handling practices were reviewed, and all staff who handle food were tested at least twice for the bacteria,” according to a release from Healthy Chicago, an initiative of the Chicago Department of Health, said at the time the outbreak was reported. 

Carbón withdrew from the Taste of Chicago so that it could turn “its full attention to addressing the issues at its Bridgeport location,” health officials said.

The owners also closed their second location at 810 N. Marshfield “out of an abundance of caution.” That location reopened July 9, health officials said. 

Two lawsuits stemming from the outbreak were filed against the restaurant, one seeking more than $90,000 in damages.

That’s the PR version.

The team at Marler’s Seattle law firm had previously filed a Freedom of Information Act request and found more than 100 people were sickened and that 16 of 40 food-handling employees of Carbón Live Fire Mexican Grill tested positive for E. coli soon after the restaurant’s two locations voluntarily closed for cleaning July 1.

Lab tests confirmed 69 people were sickened during the outbreak, with another 37 probable cases. Of the sick people, 22 had symptoms so severe that they required hospitalization. Illness onset dates ranged from June 3 to July 23.

Cilantro is the suspected source of the E. coli based on percentages of sick people who ate menu items made with the fresh produce item. Inspectors collected 12 food items, including cilantro, but none of the food returned positive results for E. coli bacteria. The cilantro was sourced from Illinois and Mexico, according to traceback information provided to the health department.

“Lettuce was associated with illness in both multivariable models but was consumed by only 44 percent of cases,” according to the health department report.

“In comparison, cilantro was consumed by 87 percent of cases, and either cilantro or salsa fresca (which included cilantro) were consumed by 95 percent of cases.”

The report references “several critical violations” observed during a July 1 inspection, such as improper temperatures for several food items including red and green salsas, tequila lime sauce, raw fish, guacamole and cheese. Inspectors also noted improper hand hygiene practices among food handlers.

Outbreak at San Antonio Housing Authority event leads to hospitalization

‘The people was wonderful. The food was wonderful,’ James Hamilton said, ‘when I first ate it.’

Sounds like most outbreaks.

According to KSAT12 an event for individuals supported by the San Antonio Housing Authority is being linked to a bunch of illnesses.

Hamilton said it did not take long for the food to make him ill.photo

“I started walking down the hallway to my apartment and I didn’t make it,” he said. “I got very sick before I even made it inside the door.”

The gala was held Friday at the Freeman Coliseum and the menu was a traditional holiday mix. Less than 48 hours later, Hamilton said he was in the hospital.

The housing authority would not disclose who prepared and provided the food.

The whole situation has left a bad taste in Hamilton’s mouth. “Getting food poisoning is one thing,” he said, “but them not telling the public that it happened is another thing altogether.”

Yep, that sucks. Businesses that make people sick don’t deserve to be protected. Share what you know. And what you don’t.

Going public: FDA not liable for $15 million in damages sought by tomato grower for food safety warning error

I remember. I was in Quebec City with a pregnant Amy when all this went down. Doing hour-long iradio interviews where midnight callers asked about aliens and Salmonella.

tomato

Michael Booth of the National Law Journal reports the U.S. Food and Drug Administration cannot be held liable for financial damages suffered by farmers when it issues emergency, but erroneous, food safety warnings, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit has ruled.

In its Dec. 2 ruling, the Fourth Circuit refused to allow a South Carolina tomato farmer to seek more than $15 million in damages from the federal government under the Federal Tort Claims Act after the FDA issued a warning that an outbreak of Salmonella Saintpaul was caused by contaminated tomatoes, when it was later determined that the outbreak was caused by contaminated peppers imported from Mexico.

A South Carolina tomato farm, Seaside Farm on St. Helena Island, sued the federal government, claiming that the incorrect warnings issued by the FDA, beginning in May 2008 and later corrected, cost it $15,036,294 in revenue. The Fourth Circuit agreed with a trial court that the FDA was acting within its authority to issue emergency food safety warnings based on preliminary information in order to protect public health.

“We refuse to place FDA between a rock and a hard place,” wrote Judge J. Harvie Wilkinson for the panel, sitting in Richmond.

“One the one hand, if FDA issued a contamination warning that was even arguably overbroad, premature, or of anything less than perfect accuracy, injured companies would plague the agency with lawsuits,” he said.

“On the other hand, delay in issuing a contamination warning would lead to massive tort liability with respect to consumers who suffer serious or even fatal consequences that a timely warning might have averted,” Wilkinson said.

Judges Paul Niemeyer and Dennis Shedd joined in the Dec. 2 ruling.

The medical crisis arose on May 22, 2008, when the New Mexico Department of Health notified the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) that a number of residents had been diagnosed as having Salmonella Saintpaul, a strain that causes fever, diarrhea, nausea and, if left untreated, death. Soon after, similar reports came in from Texas.

The CDC determined that a “strong statistical” analysis determined that the illnesses were caused by people eating raw tomatoes. By June 1 of that year, CDC was investigating 87 illnesses in nine states.

tomato-irradiationThe FDA then issued a warning to consumers in New Mexico and Texas. By June 6, 2008, however, reported cases grew to 145 incidents in 16 states. In New Jersey, three people were reported to have been diagnosed with the illness. On June 7, the FDA issued a blanket nationwide warning telling consumers that they should be wary of eating raw tomatoes. (New Jersey tomatoes were not implicated, since they do not ripen until later in the season.)

The warning listed a number of countries and states, including South Carolina, that were not included and were not implicated, but those states were not listed in media reports. Eventually, 1,220 people were diagnosed as having Salmonella Saintpaul.

Raw tomatoes were not the cause of the illnesses, however. The contamination was traced to imported jalapeño and serrano peppers imported from Mexico.

Seaside Farm, which had just harvested a large crop of tomatoes, sued in May 2011. The farm claimed the erroneous FDA warning about tomatoes cost it $15 million-plus damages in revenue. 

Pinto defense: We meet all standards, after 1 dead and six sickened at Perth childcare

In the Aussie form of see, hear and speak no evil, evidence has emerged that a child has died following an outbreak of gastro at a lower North Shore (Perth) childcare centre.

see-no-evilSix children at Little Zak’s Academy in Artarmon — aged between 11 months and four years — developed high fevers and vomiting over the past week caused by rotavirus gastroenteritis, health authorities have confirmed.

But a seventh child died, with the causes so far unknown, although the death is not being directly attributed to the outbreak.

Northern Sydney Public Health Unit director Dr Michael Staff said four of the sick children had to be admitted to hospital.

“Tragically, another child who also attends the centre died in hospital on October 23, but at this stage it appears unrelated to the gastroenteritis outbreak,” he said.

He said they were working with specialist paediatricians to understand the cause of the child’s death.

Parents were tonight in shock over the news of the death.

pintoexplodingAn email from the local health district informing them of what had happened was only sent through this afternoon.

Michael Kendall, father to five-year-old Charlotte, said that he was “furious” and would not be bringing his child back to the child care centre.

He said the centre should have been shut down during the outbreak — and that he only just found out about what had happened.

“It’s the most disgusting thing I’ve ever heard in my life, I only found about it 15 minutes ago, I just heard that a child has died.

“If I knew my child wouldn’t have been here.

“I used to run a big centre down at the snow and our first priority was to take care of people especially kids, once you have an outbreak you’re supposed to tell the parents and shut the premises down.”

A spokesman for the centre said Public Health Unit advice was that “the outbreak appears to be under control and it is safe for children to continue to attend the Centre.”

Little Zak’s said in a statement, “Please be assured our Artarmon Centre is fully accredited and compliant with all health and regulatory requirements, and we endeavour at all times to operate to the highest standards of care and hygiene. As confirmed by the Northern Sydney Local Health District, we will continue to work closely with its Public Health Unit to ensure these high standards are maintained.”

Pinto defense.

 

Going public: The hepatitis A case that wasn’t

When there is a chance to protect public health you gotta go public with all the info you have, when you have it. Sometimes new information arises that changes things and makes it look like officials got it wrong – when they didn’t.

Last week, according to The Chronicle, a food handler tested positive for hep A – and it turned out to be a false positive.flat1000x1000075f

A reported case of Hepatitis A at the Chehalis Shop’n Kart last week has been ruled a false positive by county health officials, meaning a worker in the store’s bakery was not infected and baked goods they handled were not contaminated.

An initial press release from the Lewis County Public Health and Social Services last week said a bakery worker tested positive for the virus, which causes an acute liver infection.

But a release issued Friday said this test was a false positive, meaning there was never an infection or risk to customers.

Shop’n Kart owner Darris McDaniel said the containment procedure cost his store thousands of dollars in product they threw away, while also damaging its reputation.

“In the future, if anything would happen again, we would ask for another test right away, because this sent up a lot of bad signals for our business when in fact it wasn’t true,” he said. “We did take the proper steps and acted very quickly.”

Does that going public default apply to the leafy greens cone of silence? Arizona restaurant sued over Salmonella outbreak

Alejandro Barahona and Ken Alltucker of AZ Central report a Phoenix resident filed a lawsuit against Texas-based Pappas Restaurants Inc. that claims she contracted salmonella last month after eating at the chain’s Phoenix restaurant.

lsThe Maricopa County Department of Public Health confirmed there was an investigation of a salmonella outbreak at Pappadeaux Seafood Kitchen of Phoenix.

The outbreak is over and the county health department is closing its investigation, said Jeanene Fowler, a department spokeswoman.

Because final paperwork that details the outbreak has not been completed, Fowler said, county officials could not confirm the number of people who became ill after eating at the popular seafood restaurant, at 11051 N. Black Canyon Highway.

A manager at Pappadeaux in Phoenix said he could not discuss the outbreak, referring Republic inquiries to the chain’s headquarters in Houston. Officials at the chain’s headquarters did not respond to phone messages and email questions about the county’s investigation or the lawsuit.

Pappas Restaurants has not yet answered the lawsuit, which was filed last Friday at U.S. District Court in Phoenix.

The lawsuit states that on Aug. 14, Phoenix resident Shaina Robinson ate shrimp, tilapia and crab cakes at Pappadeaux Seafood Kitchen of Phoenix. The lawsuit states that two days later, Robinson became “violently ill” with stomach illness. Four days later, she sought treatment at a Scottsdale hospital.

She spent five days at the hospital and tested positive for a strain of salmonella, according to the lawsuit.

She missed two weeks of work and “incurred significant medical bills as a direct and proximate cause of her salmonella infection contracted at Pappadeaux Seafood Resturant,” the lawsuit states.

Robinson is seeking restitution for irreparable emotional distress, medical expenses, bodily injuries, suffering and permanent impairment, among other claims.

The county health department often does not publicly announce restaurants tied to an outbreak unless officials believe it can help prevent people from becoming sick, Fowler said.

spongebob-oil-colbert-may3-10She said part of the issue is timing. County health and environmental services inspectors must confirm that an outbreak is ongoing and public disclosure could prevent people from getting sick. Inspectors also must verify an outbreak is tied to a specific restaurant and not a supplier that delivered tainted food to different establishments.

“We don’t wanted to put (restaurants) out of business for something that may have nothing to do with the business,” Fowler said. “We are trying to take that into account.”

But Fowler said that completed reports, whether it’s a routine inspection or investigation of a foodborne illness, are available for public inspection.

“We get hundreds and hundreds of these each year,” Fowler said, referring to foodborne-illness complaints.

Attorney Ryan Osterholm said he believes county health officials should aggressively notify the public during outbreaks.

“The public deserves to know,” Osterholm said. “There should be transparency in anything unless there is a compelling reason not to. … The baseline should be transparency.”

 

Going public – Not: Michigan state epidemiologist didn’t publicly report Flint-area disease outbreak

Jeff Karoub of the Boston Globe reports Michigan’s former state epidemiologist acknowledged in a plea deal Wednesday that she was aware of dozens of cases of Legionnaires’ disease in the Flint area around the same time the city changed its water source, but that she didn’t report it to the general public.

corrinemiller_1473865031626_46311380_ver1-0_640_480Corrine Miller, the former director of disease control and prevention at the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services, faced three charges stemming from the investigation into Flint’s lead-contaminated water crisis. She pleaded no contest to a misdemeanor of willful neglect of duty in exchange for prosecutors dropping felony misconduct and conspiracy charges.

Flint switched from Detroit’s water system to the Flint River to save money in 2014. But tests later showed that the river water was improperly treated and coursed through aging pipes and fixtures, releasing toxic lead.

The plea agreement states that Miller was aware of the Legionnaires’ cases in 2014, and reported to someone identified only as ‘‘Suspect 2’’ that the outbreak ‘‘was related to the switch in the water source’’ after compiling data about the illness in Genesee County. No explanation is given in the plea deal as to why the cases weren’t publicly reported.

A definitive connection between the corrosive river water and Legionnaires’ has not been made, but many experts believe it probably was the cause.

 

Going public: Missoula edition

The Missoula City-County Health Department is following the mantra of share what you know, what you don’t know and be available for questions following a possible hepatitis A exposure in Missoula, Montana.

According to KPAX, A food handler at a local retailer, the Good Food Store, was confirmed to be ill with the virus and may have exposed thousands of shoppers over the past month.saladbar

Missoula City-County Health Department officer Ellen Leahy says while the food service employee was excluded from work during most of the time that they had symptoms, there is a potential for customer exposure because Hepatitis A can be spread before a person has symptoms – before they know they are infectious or ill.

To address this possibility, the health department is issuing this public notice in conjunction with the Good Food Store, where the employee’s job included preparing foods for the self-serve salad bar. Ready-to-eat-foods such as those found on a salad bar won’t be cooked or washed by the consumer prior to eating and can be a vehicle for contamination.

Leahy says the Good Food Store followed proper sick employee exclusion rules and has excellent policies, practices, and facilities for food handling and hand washing.

The Missoula City-County Health Department recommends the following courses of action:

• If you ate food from the self-serve salad bar at the Good Food Store between August 15 and September 13, please be alert for symptoms of Hepatitis A.

• If you ate food from the self-serve salad bar at the Good Food Store within the past two weeks and have not been previously immunized for Hepatitis A, an immunization given within two weeks of exposure may protect you from getting the disease. Please come to the health department or contact your health care provider as soon as possible to discuss immunization options.

• If you did not eat food from the self-serve salad bar at the Good Food Store, no action is recommended at this time.

Contact the Missoula City-County Health Department at (406) 258-3500 if you have questions or concerns about Hepatitis A.

 

KPAX.com | Continuous News | Missoula & Western Montana

Child dies from E. coli O157 in Scotland linked to blue cheese

Is there a way to mediate the values between protecting public health and protecting business?

dunshyre.blueMy suggestion would be the company stop asserting that testing found nothing – because that means shit – and Food Safety Scotland get the legal plug out of its ass and go public with whatever information they have.

So while the Scottish company at the centre of an E. coli O157 recall related to its raw milk Dunsyre blue cheese continues to say it’s innocent, and Food Standards Scotland isn’t talking, maybe this will help focus the participants on what matters.

A child has died following the outbreak of E. coli O157 in Scotland, one of 20 confirmed cases of infection – detected between 2 and 15 July – 11 of whom had received hospital treatment.

Health officials are investigating possible links to Dunsyre blue cheese, which is made with unpasteurised milk.

South Lanarkshire-based Errington Cheese, which makes Dunsyre blue, said last month that testing had shown it to be “completely clear of E. coli O157”.

Health Protection Scotland said that epidemiological investigations had “identified Dunsyre Blue cheese as the most likely cause of the outbreak”.

It added: “Despite extensive investigation, including looking for other possible food sources, no other link to a majority of cases could be established.”

Testing don’t prove shit.

Dr Alison Smith-Palmer, from Health Protection Scotland’s Incident Management Team (IMT), said: “On behalf of the IMT, I would like to take this opportunity to extend our deepest sympathies to the family of the child who has died.

“Our thoughts are with them at this time and we ask that their privacy be respected.

“All confirmed cases became unwell prior to the end of July. As there have been no new cases since then the IMT will now stand down and work to produce its final report.”

It is understood that the final report could take up to six months to produce.

In a statement issued last month on its website, Errington Cheese said its own tests had shown the product to be clear of the bug.

“All our testing, covering a period of almost six months from 21 March to date, is completely clear of E. coli O157,” the statement said.

“All authority testing is negative for E. coli O157. All customer testing for E. coli O157 is negative. All farm testing for E. coli O157 is negative.”

The statement added: “From what we can gather all cases had an onset of symptoms between 1st -15th July (2 week period).

“However, our cheese was available over a 8/9 week period.

“From this we conclude that the outbreak was more likely to have been caused by something with a shorter shelf-life or not by a food at all.”

Epi works but needs to be stronger than ‘some people ate the cheese ’ Cheese firm in Scotland linked to E. coli outbreak threatens legal action

Victoria Weldon of Herald Scotland writes that a cheese firm at the centre of an E.coli outbreak is threatening legal action to prevent a ban on sales of its popular delicacy.

dunsyre.blue.cheeseDunsyre Blue, a mould ripened, gourmet cheese from Lanarkshire, is suspected of being the source of last month’s outbreak which struck down 16 people, hospitalising two.

Makers Errington Cheese were initially forced to recall two batches but claim they have now been ordered to halt all sales or face enforcement action.

It follows fresh tests carried out by FSS identifying genes that, while not confirmation of E.coli, indicate a “presumptive positive” result for naturally occurring bacteria strains.

Company founder Humphrey Errington claims the ban is “unprecedented” and argues that scientific evidence suggests presumptive positive results are notoriously inconclusive, adding, “The behaviour of FSS is monstrous. They blamed our cheese for this outbreak in the absence of any hard evidence and have refused to share with us details of their investigation. We had independent tests carried out two weeks ago that showed the suspected batches of cheese were not contaminated. We shared these results with FSS and they said nothing to restore public trust in the product.”

Errington said the ban on Dunsyre Blue, which accounts for about two-thirds of the company’s revenue, was a “catastrophe” and revealed that his lawyers will decide today whether or not to take legal action.

“I’m afraid I can see this ending up in the courts,” he told the Sunday Times.

Dunsyre Blue is characterised by its chunky blue-green moulds and is favoured by the Queen and Michelin-starred restaurants, including an eaterie run by renowned chef Andrew Fairlie at Gleneagles resort in Perthshire.

It became the focus of the health scare after 14 people in Scotland and two in England were struck down with E.coli in July, suffering stomach cramps, diarrhoea, vomiting and fever.

By the end of the month, health officials announced that Dunsyre Blue was the most likely cause of the outbreak.

However, questions are now being asked over the strength of evidence linking the cheese to the outbreak.

Hugh Pennington, professor of bacteriology at the University of Aberdeen, said: “I don’t know if Dunsyre Blue was the cause or not, but if you’re going to accuse Errington’s cheese of being the vector of the outbreak, then without further ado effectively destroy his business, then I think you should have stronger evidence than just ‘some people ate the cheese’.”

A spokesman for FSS said that all victims had been contaminated with the same strain of E.coli O157 and that “there is a strong link with certain batches [C22 and D14] of Dunsyre Blue cheese”.

He added: “Dunsyre Blue cheese remains the most likely source of this outbreak, with confirmed cases becoming unwell between July 2 and 15. It would not be appropriate to respond in more detail as investigations have not yet concluded.”