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Food safety expert suing Bravo: Consultant is among 360 who report illnesses

May 16, 2006

Lansing State Journal

Kevin Grasha

A consultant who helps restaurants address food safety issues - and who said she became ill after eating at Bravo Cucina Italiana - has filed a lawsuit against the company that owns the restaurant.

The suit was filed Monday on behalf of Pattie McNiel, who coordinates Michigan State University's food safety program and who also runs her own consulting business.

McNiel became ill after eating a carryout salad from the restaurant on May 7 - the same afternoon she was working with another Ingham County restaurant that had been cited for violations.

She pursued the lawsuit, she said, because in March she told a Bravo manager about several violations she had witnessed while eating there. She doesn't believe he followed up on her recommendations.

"I don't want to see people get sick like this again for no reason," she said.

"This could have been avoided."

At least 360 people have reported becoming ill after eating at the Eastwood Towne Center restaurant, Ingham County Health Department officials said Monday.

The health department has not determined why patrons became sick after eating there, said spokeswoman Natasha Davidson.

But Pam Ritz, spokeswoman for Bravo Development Inc., in Columbus, Ohio, which owns the restaurant, said they suspect a norovirus, which in January afflicted more than 400 patrons at a Delta Township Carrabba's Italian Grill.

Bravo patrons have reported becoming sick between May 3 and May 11. They have complained of vomiting, diarrhea, nausea and other symptoms.

Meanwhile, the restaurant, which voluntarily shut down May 11, has been thoroughly cleaned and sanitized, Ritz said.

McNiel, who missed several days of work because of illness, said Bravo had been her favorite restaurant in the area.

Now, "I really won't go back," she said. "When you get sick like that ..."

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