Tulsa morning show DJs hit by suspected food poisoning

I listened to a lot of Howard Stern when I was a grad student. For a couple of years, I drove all around southern Ontario visiting vegetable greenhouses, talking to farmers about food safety practices and taking samples for microbiological testing. The early mornings and distance between farms was made easier by listening to the King of All Media. I didn’t find any of the other radio morning shows in the region all that compelling.

Demonstrating the power of social media, A Tulsa OK radio show crew, described as Howard Stern-type format, has alleged that a fan of a rival show, and kitchen staff member of a Red Robin restaurant, gave them tainted food after receiving instruction from other fans through a Facebook page.

According to the witty Courthousenews.com,

The morning crew for 106.9 K-Hits aka The Billy Madison Show sued Red Robin International and cook manager Mathew Rand in Tulsa County Court. The four members of the morning crew – Nathan Norris, Jacob Day, Bishan Jones and William Garvey – say they "held a business meeting" over lunch at the Red Robin on Kenosha Street in Tulsa on Nov. 3, 2010.

In a somewhat grammatically challenged paragraph, the complaint states: "After finishing their lunch, and as Plaintiff’s were preparing to pay for their lunch, one of the Show’s listener’s emailed Plaintiffs informing them that one of Defendant’s cook managers posted on a competitor’s Facebook webpage that Plaintiffs were dining at the Premises and he proceeding to take a poll on what he should do to Plaintiff’s food."

Garvey says he "immediately confronted the Premises manager about the incident," and the manager told him "that the cook manager will be suspended indefinitely."

Norris says he suffered "severe migraine and nausea" which caused him to leave work early that afternoon, and that evening, "after attempting to eat dinner, began vomiting uncontrollably and visited an urgent care center," where he was "diagnosed with severe food poisoning."

The next day, Day, Jones and Garvey "also visited an urgent care center and were also diagnosed with food poisoning," the complaint states. The morning crew says "Rand poisoned Plaintiff’s food" while working for Red Robin as a cook manager. They seek punitive damages for battery, negligence and vicarious liability.

Facebook and Twitter are increasingly being used for instant dialogue and engagement. Regardless of whether the allegations are found to be true or not, the public discussion of whether a food handler should contaminate a patrons food isn’t a good thing for a food safety culture, or business. Based on the symptoms and onset of reported illnesses, my guess for the cause of illnesses is something chemical; pretty hard for a cook to whip up some pathogen concoction that would work that quickly, even if a Mallrats-esque stinkpalm was utilized.


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About Ben Chapman

Dr. Ben Chapman is a professor and food safety extension specialist at North Carolina State University. As a teenager, a Saturday afternoon viewing of the classic cable movie, Outbreak, sparked his interest in pathogens and public health. With the goal of less foodborne illness, his group designs, implements, and evaluates food safety strategies, messages, and media from farm-to-fork. Through reality-based research, Chapman investigates behaviors and creates interventions aimed at amateur and professional food handlers, managers, and organizational decision-makers; the gate keepers of safe food. Ben co-hosts a biweekly podcast called Food Safety Talk and tries to further engage folks online through Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and, maybe not surprisingly, Pinterest. Follow on Twitter @benjaminchapman.