True Food Kitchen Shigella Outbreak - California (2014)
In August 2014 staff at the Health Care Agency of Orange County (HCAOC) investigated an outbreak of Shigella among customers of True Food Kitchen, a restaurant located in Newport Beach, California. A total of 7 restaurant patrons and one restaurant employee were laboratory confirmed with Shigella. All reported eating at the restaurant between August 21 and August 25.
According to Denise Fennessy, director of Environmental Health at HCAOC, spread of the bacteria was believed to be person-to-person since none of the ill patrons ate the same dish. All employees were required to submit stool specimens for testing for Shigella before they could return to work. The restaurant was closed on August 28 for what county inspectors labeled as an “imminent health risk”. During the two day closure, True Food was required to discard all ready-to-eat foods and open beverage bottles. Unsealed linens and ice were also disposed.
True Food Kitchen in Newport Beach has a history of poor food safety practices. The restaurant was inspected 4 times in 2013; once in response to an illness complaint. Each time serious food handling practices were observed and required correction. An inspection conducted on June 9, 2014 showed a lack of sanitary conditions including evidence of “vermin activity,” improper food storage and inadequate hygiene. Even after the August 2014 outbreak, the restaurant continued to perform poorly on inspection. On December 2, 2014 a county inspector identified vegetables held at improper temperatures. Employees were directed to discard sweet potato cubes that had been held on the cook’s line in ambient air for 5 hours. Roasted onion slices were held at 65oF instead of the required 165oF.
Marler Clark represented all 8 people affected in the outbreak, achieving settlements covering their medical expenses, lost wages, pain and suffering, and loss of enjoyment of life.