Taste of Chicago Salmonella OutbreakThe City of Chicago Department of Public Health (CDPH) issued an update on the number of Salmonella illnesses the department is investigating in connection to a Salmonella outbreak at the Pars Cove Persian Cuisine booth at the Taste of Chicago festival.  CDPH announced that as of noon today, 717 people have reported illness they believe to be associated with the consumption of food purchased from the Pars Cove booth.  Of those reporting illness, 116 have been confirmed ill with Salmonellosis through laboratory testing.  78 have been confirmed ill with Salmonella Heidelberg, the outbreak strain.  CDPH reported that 31 people are known to have been hospitalized with Salmonella infections after visiting the Taste of Chicago festival.

The Taste of Chicago Salmonella outbreak is believed to have been caused by contaminated hummus shirazi, a fresh herb tomato cucumber salad over a bed of hummus, — the only dish served at the Pars Cove booth that was associated with illness. CDPH had yet to determine whether the hummus dish was contaminated by an ill food worker, or if a food ingredient was the source of contamination.

CDPH has stressed in all public announcements that this is the first foodborne illness outbreak associated with Taste of Chicago in at least 20 years.  This week’s Food Safety Infosheet from the International Food Safety Network stresses how challenging food safety can become at a festival such as Taste of Chicago:

Festivals provide great food experiences but because they are temporary sites, food preparation, storage and transport can be problematic. What you need to worry about in a kitchen at a festival:

• Temperature control
• Cross-contamination
• Personal Hygiene
• Acquiring food from safe sources

This outbreak highlights that food safety problems happen, even if many inspectors are around — what matters most is what happens when inspectors aren’t there.