Restaurant Fruit Drink Linked to Outbreak of Salmonella

A brand of unpasteurized orange juice used in World Wrapps' popular fruit drinks has been linked definitively to an outbreak of salmonella in King County, health department officials said yesterday.

Lab tests matched the DNA of all 14 cases with salmonella found in unpasteurized juice produced by Sun Orchard at its Tempe, Ariz., plant, said Dr. John Kobayashi, an epidemiologist with the state Department of Health.

"This is the smoking gun," said Kobayashi, referring to the DNA testing. "There's no question what's responsible."

Of the 14 confirmed cases, nine people had been infected by "smoothies" at Seattle-area World Wrapps restaurants, said Janice Boase of Seattle-King County Public Health Department. One case came from a nursing home in Seattle and two from restaurants in Oregon. The exact source of the remaining two is unknown.

Once health officials began to suspect orange juice, World Wrapps pulled both its orange juice and sherbet, said Brad Pettinger, vice president of the company.

"When you first hear about something like this, you almost lose your breath," Pettinger said. "The market is very sensitive to these cases. We're just glad no one has been seriously hurt."

Health officials expect the number of infections to rise, even though a recall of Sun Orchard products is under way, Boase said.

Already, 15 other cases of salmonella in King County are under investigation and thought to be linked to the contaminated juice. Ten more people have reported suffering from symptoms of the bacteria.

"All considering, this is a relatively small outbreak," Kobayashi said.

The outbreak also has sickened an unknown number of people in California and Oregon.

Beginning last week, Sun Orchard began to pasteurize all of its orange juice, said Jim Kurtz, a vice president for Sun Orchard. The wholesale company sells primarily to restaurants and hotels.

Local and state health departments started investigating after Children's Hospital & Medical Center reported three cases of salmonella last weekend.

Sun Orchard has invited calls at 1-800-505-8423 for questions about unpasteurized orange juice and the recall.