The McClatchy-Tribune Business News reports that contaminated potato salad that made about 100 people sick in the Bowling Green area also was the likely source of a food-borne illness that affected as many as 35 more people at two other catered events, the Toledo-Lucas County health department said yesterday.
Alan Ruffell, the health department’s director of environmental health, said that the same potato salad that led health inspectors to Nick & Jimmy’s Bar & Grill, 4956 Monroe St., was believed to have been served at an office lunch party on June 16 and a g raduation party June 17 — both held in Lucas County.
Those who became ill at the two Lucas County parties are in addition to the nearly 100 people sickened June 15 at a graduation party in Wood County.
The Ohio Department of Health, which is investigating the complaint, found that eight stool samples from people who ate the potato salad tested positive for Norovirus.
According to the Wood County health department, the potato salad served at the gatherings tested “fairly high for fecal coliform.”
Public health officials said the potato salad was most likely contaminated when a food service employee failed to wash his or her hands after using the restroom.
Restaurant owner Nick Tokles said the Ohio Department of Health reported to him that the tests could not verify whether the virus was animal or human.
Pointing out that vegetables are often grown using manure-based fertilizers, Mr. Tokles said the problem could have been from the improper washing of carrots or celery before being added to the potato salad.
Mr. Tokles said he has been in the restaurant business most of his life, including 27 years at the Monroe Street location. He said he has catered numerous events and served the potato salad to thousands of people without problems.
Mr. Ruffell acknowledged that fecal coliform can come from any animal, but said that the Norovirus is “almost always” carried by humans. He added that the virus, which is what caused people to be sick, is easily killed by heat.
In response to the initial complaint, the Toledo-Lucas County health department inspected Nick & Jimmy’s Monroe Street location on June 16 and found 35 violations, including 12 that were labeled critical. A June 27 follow-up inspection found only three vi olations, of which two were critical.
On June 28, the health department issued a public health order to “cease and desist” all catering operations because the restaurant is not a licensed caterer.
Mr. Ruffell added that the health department has “not ruled out anything as far as penalties.”
Rick Biddle, an employee at CISP Inc., in Toledo, which had an office lunch party on June 16, said he was violently ill during the weekend after the catered event. He said he was sick enough to warrant a trip to the hospital where he had to be re-hydrated .
The potato salad came from the same batch served in Bowling Green the day before and at a Toledo party the day after.