Public Health is investigating an outbreak of Shiga toxin-producing E. coli (also known as STEC) associated with diarrhea and abdominal pain at Torero’s Mexican Restaurant in Renton.
The investigation is ongoing. At this time, we have not identified how STEC was spread within the restaurant. This is not uncommon for STEC outbreaks, because the bacteria can spread through contaminated food items, environmental surfaces, and from person to person.
Since September 5, 2022, 3 people from 3 separate meal parties reported becoming ill after eating food from Torero’s Mexican Restaurant in Renton on September 3, 2022 and September 7, 2022. All of the people developed one or more symptoms consistent with STEC, including diarrhea (often bloody), abdominal cramping, nausea, and vomiting. We have not identified any ill employees.
Public Health actions
Public Health conducted interviews with the people ill with STEC to identify potential common exposures. On September 29, 2022, Public Health identified Torero’s as a common food source for all three individuals.
Environmental Health Investigators visited the restaurant on September 30, 2022. Investigators identified inadequate handwashing facilities and improper storage of raw meats as potential risk factors for this outbreak. All critical violations were corrected during the inspection. Environmental Health Investigators will revisit the facility within 2 weeks to ensure proper compliance with food handling practices.
No ill employees were identified at the time of the inspection. Investigators reviewed with restaurant management the requirement that ill staff are not allowed to work until they are symptom-free for at least 24 hours. Investigators provided education about preventing the spread of STEC — including proper handwashing, preventing bare hand contact with ready-to-eat foods, and preventing cross contamination during food preparation.
All of the cases have confirmatory testing indicating infections with Shiga toxin-producing E. coli (STEC) via culture. All confirmed cases have the same strain of STEC, based on genetic fingerprinting (whole genome sequencing or WGS) at the Washington State Public Health Laboratory.
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