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Salmonella poisoning blamed on inadequate sanitation

Cannoli filling that sickened nearly 200 people in Macomb County was contaminated with salmonella bacteria because of cross contamination of infected eggs or dairy products, or lack of employee hand-washing. State Department of Agriculture investigators concluded Wednesday that Black Forest Cakes and Pastries failed to prevent the spread of salmonella enteritidis once it became established in the facility, because of poor sanitation practices in preparation areas.

Investigators could not determine whether the bacteria originated in the bakery or was brought into the facility in mid or late February.

"The (bakery's) sanitation practices were insufficient to prevent cross contamination once Salmonella enteritidis was introduced into the facility," says a report released Wednesday.

The report is a precursor to potential discipline the department will take against the Clinton Township bakery.

"That part of it is still a work in progress and has not been finalized yet," said Agriculture Department spokeswoman Sara Linsmeier-Wurfel.

The bakery is currently operating with a menu that excludes products that used the filling in question.

Also Wednesday, an attorney said 32 more people will sue the bakery in a "consolidated case" in Macomb Circuit Court this week, in addition to the dozen people who have already sued.

The bakery owner referred a telephone call to his attorney, David Shea, who did not return a phone call late Wednesday afternoon.

The county report says that of the 196 who got sick, 24 were hospitalized. Of 165 people tested, 99 were female and 160 experienced diarrhea, 141 abdominal pain, 96 nausea, 91 fever and 44 vomiting.

The filling was used in cannolis and cassatta cakes that were purchased by 39 separate groups or individuals, including 35 mini cassatta cakes for a bridal shower with 630 guests. Investigators determined that a small number of tiramisu cakes, which did not contain the cannoli filling, were contaminated likely due to cross contamination at a shared preparation table.

Salmonella is usually found in food of animal origin: beef, poultry, milk or eggs. It is present in one in 10,000 commercially available shell eggs. Thorough cooking kills the bacteria.

Black Forest's cannoli filling did not use eggs, but state officials have said that egg yoke was found dripping on or near cannoli filling.

Bakery workers often made batches of other products that used eggs in large buckets and at preparation tables.

The report says workers also failed to properly refrigerate the filling.

"Cooling the filling in large batches at room temperature could have allowed rapid multiplication of any salmonella enteritidis organisms that may have been introduced into the filling by contaminated hands, buckets or utensils," the report says.

Until potential discipline is meted out, the state ordered Black Forest to:

  • Treat all foods as if contaminated and "separate them to the greatest extent feasible."
  • Operate with a limited menu and wash, rinse, sanitize and air dry the three preparation sinks.
  • Refrigerate cannoli filling.
  • Require employees to attend food safety training course.
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