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Three days after several people reported having E. coli poisoning, the Salem, Oregon, Wendy’s was voluntarily closed for being the source of the outbreak. Additional testing confirmed an additional case at a Wendy’s restaurant in Tualatin, Oregon.

A health department investigation revealed that cross contamination from contaminated ground beef was the outbreak source, where meats and multiple salad bar items were prepared in close proximity to each other. Whereas the meats may have been cooked to health specifications, any contaminated salad bar items were not.

Marion County Inspectors found several food-handling problems that likely resulted in the cross-contamination:

• Food-preparation staff soaked lettuce in the first compartment of a three-compartment sink that was used to rinse bloody-meat-juice-covered pans in which raw hamburger patties had been held, without cleaning and sanitizing the sink between uses.

• Food-preparation staff used a cleaning and sanitizing "wet towel, dry towel" process, whereby a shelf above the grill that held raw hamburger patties was wiped clean first with a dry towel, then with a sanitized-soaked wet towel. The dry, bloody-meat-juice-soaked towel was used for hand wiping in both the grill area and the sandwich assembly area (where raw products are placed on cooked burgers).

• Poor hand washing was observed.

Prior to reopening, the restaurant was required to do the following:

• Hand wash Sink/Produce sink in Prep area to be switched to improve accessibility at back prep area hand washing.

• A new hand wash sink will be provided in the grill/sandwich prep area.

• All open foods/not sealed will be removed from the facility and replaced with new product.

• A new utensil washing system will be installed.

• A barrier will be provided to separate the grill from the sandwich assembling area.

• In the near future, a food preparation sink will be installed at the baked potato station.

• Prior to reopening, training and re-orientation will be provided to all staff over food preparation procedures.

• Increased monitoring of cooking hot/cold holding, sanitizer rotation and towel rotation.

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