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Don Julio Mexican Restaurant Salmonella Outbreak Lawsuits

In late November 2011 health care providers in the Emergency Department at the Magnolia Regional Health Center located in Corinth, Mississippi alerted public health officials about an unusually high number of patients presenting with gastrointestinal illness. Several patients were hospitalized. Patient specimens would ultimately test positive for Salmonella serotype Typhimurium. Data collected during preliminary interviews of ill patients implicated meals at Don Julio’s Restaurant located in Corinth, Mississippi as the source of their illnesses. The restaurant was closed on December 8 while a foodborne illness outbreak investigation was conducted.

Several Don Julio Restaurants are located in Mississippi but illnesses were limited to customers of the Corinth location. This allowed public health investigators at the Mississippi State Health Department (MSHD) to focus their environmental investigation on the Corinth facility. Employee stool specimens and restaurant food items were collected and tested for the presence of Salmonella. Sixty percent of the employees were laboratory confirmed with Salmonella whereas all food tested was negative. Genetic testing by PFGE confirmed that Don Julio customers and employees were infected with an indistinguishable strain of Salmonella Typhimurium.

The health department used credit or debit card receipts to identify Don Julio customers. Two hundred customers (144 ill persons and 56 non-ill persons) were interviewed about consumption of specific menu items. One food item (not identified) was statistically associated with illness but investigators discounted this finding due to the high number (84%) of all diners, ill and non-ill, who had consumed the item. The health department concluded that ill food handlers were the most likely factor contributing to 160 Salmonella illnesses among customers of the Don Julio Restaurant in Corinth. On December 13, 2011 the MSHD announced that 59 Don Julio customers were confirmed by laboratory testing to be infected with Salmonella. They also declared the outbreak to be over. The restaurant was allowed to reopen after a plan of corrective measures to prevent future illnesses was approved by the health department.

Marler Clark represented individuals affected by the outbreak, achieving settlements for damages, wage loss, pain and suffering, and loss of consortium.

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