According to an article in today’s Kansas City Star, Johnson County health officials in Lenexa, Kansas are looking to salsa served at Mi Ranchito restaurant as the likely case of a sudden and alarming outbreak of illness at the restaurant.  The salsa was evidently tainted with a pesticide called methomyl.  Its use is highly restricted due to its high toxicity in humans.

About 20 people fell suddenly ill in late August while dining at the restaurant. More than a dozen people were taken to the hospital. Some customers complained of severe nausea and vomiting, which can be symptoms of poisoning by the pesticide.

Rulber Dela Torre, one of the founders of the Mi Ranchito restaurants, said this morning that state health officials have not told him that poisoning caused the sickness. Health officials declined to comment today.

“We don’t store poisons in our restaurants,” Dela Torre said. “If this did happen, it was a deliberate act by somebody who wants to hurt my business.”

Employees at the restaurants make about 20 gallons of fresh salsa every morning and more some afternoons, he said. The salsa goes into a walk-in cooler and is taken out as needed and put in pans in a refrigerator, he said.

State officials cleared the restaurant to open last week after it passed a safety inspection and its employees passed a safety test.