When an outbreak happens at a restaurant, as opposed to an outbreak from a food item sold in grocery stores, the cause is frequently that one of the restaurant’s employees was ill and contaminated food. Often, other employees in the restaurant become sick as well, which can cause the problem of illness amongst customers to increase exponentially. This is surely the case in the 2003 Salmonella javiana outbreak linked to Chili’s restaurant in Vernon Hills, Illinois. See Analysis of the Chili’s Chicago-area Salmonella outbreak.
The Shigella outbreak at Subway in Lombard, Illinois may also have been because of ill employees. The Dupage County Health Department has not released any findings yet because its efforts have been aimed primarily at stopping the outbreak, and making sure that the restaurant is in shape to operate again. Currently, there are at least 12 confirmed illnesses in the outbreak, with seven hospitalizations.
The legal requirements in the State of Illinois related to ill employees are quite clear. Section 750.500(a) of the Illinois administrative code states:
No person, while affected with a disease in a communicable form that can be transmitted by foods or who is a carrier of organisms that cause such a disease or while afflicted with a boil, or infected wound, or an acute respiratory infection, shall work in a food service establishment in any capacity in which there is a likelihood of such person contaminating food or food-contact surfaces with pathogenic organisms or transmitting disease to other persons.
Whether sick employees were a cause of the Lombard Subway Shigella outbreak remains to be determined for sure. But its always a good guess in a restaurant outbreak situation. Other interesting legal requirements for Illinois restaurants appear at the Dupage County Health Department site. Certain requirements sure to be the subject of much discovery in lawsuits surrounding the outbreak are: The personal cleanliness of restaurant personnel, employee training, and manager training and certification.