For some, 'freak accident' won't take Sheetz off the menu


Karen Bridges knows the impact of a food scare.

After an outbreak last fall of hepatitis A that was linked to green onions eaten at the Chi-Chi's Mexican restaurant in Beaver Valley Mall, the 26-year-old waitress spent a lot of time pulling salad onions from her customers' dinner orders.

Nevertheless, Bridges, of North Huntingdon, Westmoreland County, said the outbreak of salmonellosis possibly linked to tomatoes and lettuce at Sheetz convenience stores probably won't change her eating habits.

"I'm wondering about it," she said Friday as she waited for her deli order from a Sheetz store near her home. "I'm waiting for the results. I want to know where it came from, but I'm not too worried about it."

Customers continued to place their deli orders at the North Huntingdon Sheetz as the state Department of Health announced that the number of people sickened in the salmonellosis outbreak had climbed to 70.

Dave Smith, 23, of Forbes Road, doesn't eat tomatoes. Still, he ordered two hot dogs instead of his usual sub.

Smith travels extensively and eats at Sheetz about twice a week. "I probably wouldn't change," he said.

Officials in four other states are investigating whether reported cases are linked to Pennsylvania's outbreak. Health department officials say the number of cases will probably continue to climb in coming days.

Health department spokesman Richard McGarvey credited Sheetz with "doing the right thing" -- pulling possible contaminated products and sanitizing all of its stores.

In Westmoreland County, Mercy Jeannette Hospital has seen 16 cases of salmonellosis. Westmoreland Regional Hospital, Greensburg, has seen 20 positive cultures.

The salmonellosis outbreak won't change Jared Elder's eating habits. The 20-year-old North Huntingdon man said he isn't about to give up his Sheetz hamburgers with lettuce.

"This was a freak accident. It happens everywhere. I'll still come back," he said.

Roni Gumbert, 20, lives close to the Sheetz store near the Stewartsville Elementary School. She works as a hostess at the Olive Garden restaurant in Monroeville and said she eats at Sheetz about three times a week. Her mother, Rhonda Gumbert, loves the salads.

"They make great salads, and it's convenient," she said.