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King Garden Restaurant E. coli Outbreak Lawsuits - Ohio (2002)

On September 26, 2002 the Wayne County Health Department (WCHD) announced that it was investigating an E. coli O157:H7 outbreak believed to be linked to the King Garden restaurant in Wooster, Ohio. At least two individuals had been confirmed ill with E. coli infections, and other specimens were awaiting laboratory confirmation. All victims had eaten at King Garden in the days before becoming ill.

Health Department officials conducted an inspection of the premises and food handling practices at the restaurant. Violations were noted in personal cleanliness, hygienic practices, protection of food from contamination after receipt, limitation of growth of organisms, cleaning, sanitizing, and the plumbing system. Among the noted violations were the following:

  • Improper hand washing by employees, lack of use of soap and paper towels;
  • Hand washing sink lacked hot water;
  • Employee noted improperly washing hands and then using bare hands to touch dumpling mix, including raw sausage;
  • Employee failure to use proper hair restraints (noted as a repeat violation);
  • Several containers of raw meats and vegetables in walk-in cooler stored without cover, in a manner insufficient to prevent contamination;
  • Six or more cleavers used for vegetables and meats improperly stored and cleaned, with food debris present on the blades;
  • Practices likely to lead to cross-contamination, including improper storage of raw chicken and pork, and improper dispensing of raw beef;
  • Improper hot holding of foods on the buffet, including chicken wings and fried fish;
  • Boxes of chicken being stored in the three-compartment sink;
  • Blades of the slicer and shredder noted with dried food debris accumulation;
  • Wall, floor and ceiling surfaces in need of cleaning.
  • Most importantly, the investigators noted “raw meat stored above the Jell-O in the refrigerator.”

Through their epidemiologic investigation, WCHD and Ohio Department of Health investigators determined that all ill restaurant patrons had eaten Jell-O at the buffet-restaurant, and concluded that “the likely source of E. coli O157:H7 in the Jell-O was from raw meat juices dripping on the Jell-O while it was solidifying in the refrigerator.”

Marler Clark represented five children who became ill with E. coli infections after eating E. coli-contaminated Jell-O at King Garden in claims against the restaurant. The claims were resolved in 2005.

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