In October of 2000, the California Department of Health Services (CDHS) was notified that several Redwood City, California, residents had become ill with confirmed Shigella infections.
San Mateo County Communicable Disease Control staff conducted a case-control study, and learned that there was a statistically significant association between consuming the salsa prepared at Viva Mexico and illness. CDHS conducted an environmental assessment of the restaurant on October 24, noting multiple food code violations, and San Mateo County sanitarians closed the restaurant. Violations cited included:
- no soap in the women’s restroom;
- no sanitizer on the premises;
- on site thermometer was reading temperatures 10F off;
- improper cooling of foods – meat, poultry, and beans – with core temperatures from 50-70F after 18 hours of cooling;
- cross contamination of foods – meat residue on knives used to cut produce.
When the outbreak investigation was complete, CDHS had identified 221 people who had eaten at Viva Mexico between October 19 and October 24 and had become ill with Shigella infections. Seventy people were culture-confirmed with Shigella, and one person died as a result of her illness.
Marler Clark represented 16 families with members who became ill with Shigella during the outbreak in claims against Viva Mexico. All clients’ cases were settled for confidential sums in 2002.