In September of 2005, Pubic Health of Seattle and King County (PHSKC) and the State of Washington Department of Health (WDOH) began investigating what appeared to be an E. coli O157:H7 outbreak in King County. The agencies identified 4 laboratory-confirmed cases, and 10 probable cases of E. coli that were linked to the consumption of food served at the Robinswood Pointe Senior Living facility in Bellevue, Washington. All ill individuals lived in or dined at the Robinswood Pointe facility.
Public health investigators conducted a case-control study, and determined that the likely source of E. coli was one or more ready-to-eat foods prepared at Robinswood Pointe, likely a garnish. Investigators found multiple food-handling errors that supported the conclusion that ready-to-eat foods had been cross-contaminated through contact with raw meat products. Among the findings by investigators:
- The Person in Charge did not know proper cooling methods for potentially hazardous foods, and did not know the proper cleaning and sanitizing methods required for food contact surfaces.
- Food Worker Cards were expired for several of the kitchen staff.
- Food workers were observed washing gloved hands and not scrubbing or lathering when washing hands. Hand washing frequency appeared to be infrequent or haphazard.
- Two different workers rinsed hands over a bowl of lettuce that was soaking in the food sink.
In addition to the public health investigation conducted in regards to this E. coli outbreak, the Department of Social and Health Services (DSHS) Aging and Disability Services Administration conducted an independent investigation, concluding that “a food borne illness outbreak occurred at the facility.” DSHS reported 11 ill residents, five of whom were hospitalized, and 4 ill employees.
Marler Clark represented the family of an elderly woman who became ill with E. coli during the outbreak and died. Her family’s claim was resolved in July of 2006.