With the Boise Co-op Salmonella outbreak topping 250 sickened in early June and the Kenosha Supermercado Los Corrales outbreak at about 100 from late May, it may be instructive to look back over the last decade or so at other food service outbreaks of similar size for some context:

Wyndham Anatole Hotel Salmonella Outbreak Lawsuits – Texas (2002)

In March and April of 2002, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) joined the Texas Department of health (TDH), the City of Dallas Department of Environmental Health Services, and Dallas County Health and Human Services Department in a Salmonella outbreak investigation.

At least 650 people reported becoming ill after attending conferences and conventions held at the Wyndham Anatole Hotel in Dallas.  At least 50 were confirmed with Salmonella infections, and victims from every state were part of the outbreak.  Of one group of 2,200 people who attended a conference at the hotel, 278 reported diarrhea and vomiting consistent with salmonellosis.

Health department investigators concluded that a hotel food-service worker who had a Salmonella infection contaminated food during the preparation process.  The victims of the outbreak then were infected by consuming the contaminated food.  According to TDH, “the food most commonly consumed by those who tested positive for salmonellosis was salsa, which was made in the hotel.”  This salsa was prepared by the infected worker on a daily basis.

The banquet kitchen was found to have insufficient hygienic practices and soap or paper towels were not found at all hand sinks.

Subway Salmonella Hvittingfoss Outbreak Lawsuits – Illinois (2010)

103 people were officially counted in an outbreak of Salmonella Hvittingfoss linked to Subway restaurants in Illinois in 2010.  Residents of 28 counties were sickened, and the Illinois Department of Health (IDOH) reported that 26 of those sickened with Salmonella infections had to be hospitalized.

No single food served at Subway locations was determined to be contaminated with Salmonella, but Illinois Subway restaurants voluntarily withdrew lettuce, green peppers, red onions and tomatoes and replaced them with new produce.

San Antonio Taco Salmonella Outbreak Lawsuits – Tennessee (2000)

In August of 2000, over 200 people became ill with Salmonella infections after eating food from a San Antonio Taco Company franchise located in Nashville, Tennessee.

After it became aware of the outbreak, the Metropolitan Health Department (MHD) of Nashville conducted an investigation into the outbreak, including an environmental health inspection of the restaurant and an epidemiologic investigation.  During the inspection on August 10, MHD noted several sources of possible cross-contamination, including:

  • Cutting boards used to slice cooked meats sat on a table that also held pans of raw chicken and beef.
  • Cases of whole avocados, held in boxes that showed obvious signs of liquid damage, were stored under pans of raw meat.

In the process of the epidemiologic investigation, MDH was notified that two San Antonio Taco Company employees tested positive for Salmonella newport, the same strain that had been isolated from ill restaurant patrons.  The pulsed field gel electrophoresis (PFGE) testing for one of the employees showed an indistinguishable DNA match with the results of 30 isolates from stool samples submitted by case-patients for testing.  In addition, leftover salsa obtained from one of the ill patrons tested positive for Salmonella newport.

MDH concluded that the most likely possible sources for the food contamination were:

  • Employees contaminating the food by using improper hand-washing methods.
  • Employee cross-contaminating foods via equipment and/or utensils that had not been cleaned and sanitized properly.

Pars Cove Salmonella Outbreak at Taste of Chicago Lawsuits – Illinois (2007)

On Wednesday, July 11, 2007, the City of Chicago Department of Public Health (CDPH) announced that the agency was investigating a number of cases of Salmonellosis that at the time appeared to be related to consumption of foods served at the Pars Cove Persian Cuisine booth at the Taste of Chicago festival held the weekend of July 7.

In what was reported to be the first confirmed outbreak of foodborne illness associated with Taste of Chicago in 20 years, CDPH announced that 17 people appeared to have illnesses associated with the Pars Cove Taste of Chicago booth; five had been confirmed as suffering Salmonella infections, several sought medical care and at least three were admitted to hospitals. CDPH urged anyone who had visited the Pars Cove booth and was experiencing symptoms of gastrointestinal illness to contact a health care provider and report their illness to the health department.

In a press release on July 13, CDPH announced that hummus shirazi, a fresh herb tomato cucumber salad over a bed of hummus, was the only dish served at the Pars Cove booth that was associated with illness.

More cases continued to be reported over the following weeks, and by August 8, 2007, CDOH had identified 790 people who reported becoming ill after eating food from the Pars Cove booth at the Taste of Chicago festival; 182 were lab-confirmed as Salmonella cases, with 169 cases identified as Salmonella Heidelberg.  CDOH stated that 38 people had been hospitalized with Salmonella infections during the outbreak.

Old South Salmonella Outbreak Lawsuits – South Carolina (2005)

On May 22, 2005, the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC) learned that several patrons of the Old South restaurant in Camden, South Carolina, had become ill with Salmonella infections.  DHEC officials immediately began both epidemiologic and environmental investigations into the outbreak and quickly learned that food both catered from and served inside the restaurant had caused illness.  Leftover food was sent to the Food Safety and Inspection Service lab in Athens, Georgia, for testing.

Information gathered by DHEC epidemiologists suggested that ill Old South patrons had eaten foods prepared at the restaurant between May 18 and May 22.  Three case-control studies conducted by DHEC officials resulted in the discovery that roast turkey and biscuits were the source of the Salmonella outbreak.  Laboratory results from the environmental investigation further implicated the roast turkey.

During the course of their investigation, DHEC investigators learned that the convection oven employees used to cook the contaminated turkey had malfunctioned, thus preventing the turkey from reaching a temperature sufficient to kill Salmonella.

DHEC ultimately identified 304 confirmed and suspected cases during the course of its investigation, and one man’s death was attributed to his Salmonella infection.

Chili’s Salmonella Outbreak Lawsuits – Illinois (2003)

In late June of 2003, the Lake County Health Department (LCHD) was contacted by health care providers who had treated patients for Salmonellosis, and customers who had experienced a diarrheal illness after eating at the Vernon Hills, Illinois, Chili’s Grill & Bar.  LCHD sent investigators to inspect the restaurant for food safety violations.  During the inspection, investigators discovered:

  • The restaurant’s dishwashing machine was broken and corroded; the tube that fed chlorine into the machine was plugged, preventing proper sanitization of dishes.  Employees told investigators that the machine had not worked properly for at least a week.
  • Food was not stored at proper temperatures in the cooler.
  • Three employees and a manager had called in sick that day with flu-like symptoms.

LCHD continued to receive reports of Salmonella infection from local hospitals and restaurant patrons throughout the next several days.

During the course of investigating the outbreak, investigators discovered that thirteen employees had been allowed to work despite suffering from diarrhea and other symptoms, and learned that Chili’s had operated despite having no water for part of one day, and no hot water for at least one full day.  Food safety regulations require that hot water be available at all times during a restaurant’s operation.

In mid-July, LCHD concluded its investigation, and reported that over 300 individuals had been sickened as a result of consuming contaminated food at a Chili’s.  Of those, 141 customers and 28 employees had tested positive for Salmonella, while 105 other infected individuals met the LCHD’s definition of a probable case.  LCHD issued a preliminary report that concluded the outbreak was caused by infected employees who contaminated food with Salmonella as a result of poor sanitary practices and improper food-handling.

Brook-Lea Country Club Salmonella Outbreak Lawsuits – New York (2002)

In late June of 2002, the Monroe County Health Department (MCHD) in upstate New York began receiving reports of laboratory-confirmed Salmonella illnesses from local hospitals and doctors.  By June 22, MCHD had received 17 reports of illness among attendees at multiple events held at the Brook-Lea Country Club outside of Rochester between June 1 and June 17.  In response to the outbreak, MCHD inspected the Brook-Lea kitchen and reviewed its food-handling procedures.  In addition, Brook-Lea closed its kitchen and had the kitchen cleaned by a commercial company.

By June 24, stool samples collected from 53 people who had eaten foods prepared in the Brook-Lea kitchen had cultured positive for Salmonella, and dozens of additional samples were pending culture confirmation.  MCHD obtained stool and blood samples from about 50 kitchen-related Brook-Lea staff for Salmonella testing.  Nine employees tested positive for Salmonella infection.

As the MCHD investigation continued, the number of Salmonella cases linked to Brook-Lea climbed to over 100.  At least 95 of the cases were both culture-confirmed and linked epidemiologically to the consumption of food at Brook-Lea between June 1 and June 18.

The Brook-Lea kitchen reopened, but was quickly closed down again when on July 30 six more people became ill with Salmonella after eating at Brook-Lea.  Four victims of the new outbreak were Brook-Lea employees.  Overall, there were now 106 confirmed cases of salmonella food poisoning in people residing in Monroe County and the surrounding area. All of these cases were linked to the Brook-Lea Country Club.

Black Forest Bakery Salmonella Outbreak lawsuits – Michigan (2002)

In the early spring of 2002, the Macomb County Health Department (MCHD) and Michigan Department of Agriculture (MDA) investigated a Salmonella Enteritidis outbreak associated with the Black Forest Cakes & Pastries shop in Macomb, Michigan.  MCHD’s epidemiologic investigation into the outbreak established that illness was significantly associated with consumption of cannolis or cassata cakes made at the bakery.  In addition, MDA’s environmental investigation of the shop revealed food handling practices that could have contributed to Salmonella contamination:

  • Failure to properly sanitize equipment, utensils, and food contact surfaces.
  • Sharing towels to dry surfaces and utensils.
  • Failure to adequately emphasize frequent and effective hand washing.

Of the 196 individuals who reported illness, 46 tested positive for Salmonella Enteritidis and 24 were hospitalized.  Four food samples from the Black Forest Cakes and Pastries shop also tested positive for Salmonella.

Salmonella: Marler Clark, The Food Safety Law Firm, is the nation’s leading law firm representing victims of Salmonella outbreaks. The Salmonella lawyers of Marler Clark have represented thousands of victims of Salmonella and other foodborne illness outbreaks and have recovered over $600 million for clients. Marler Clark is the only law firm in the nation with a practice focused exclusively on foodborne illness litigation. Our Salmonella lawyers have litigated Salmonella cases stemming from outbreaks traced to a variety of foods, such as cantaloupe, tomatoes, ground turkey, salami, sprouts, cereal, peanut butter, and food served in restaurants. The law firm has brought Salmonella lawsuits against such companies as Cargill, ConAgra, Peanut Corporation of America, Sheetz, Taco Bell, Subway and Wal-Mart.