SC Dept of Health and Environmental Control doesn’t name outbreak restaurant; Facebook lights up

With at least 11 E. coli O157:H7 illnesses (and 2 HUS cases) linked to an unnamed Spartanburg Mexican restaurant, social media speculation and outrage has commenced.
From the WSPA-TV (Spartanburg) Facebook page:
– "They need to release the name of the restaurant. One so the public knows , and two b/c if people don’t know which one to avoid, they may stop eating at Mexican Restaurants all together. So why should other Mexican restaurants have to suffer?"
– "I smell some hush hush money so the name doesn’t get in the public! Like others, I love Mexican food but not at the risk of my health. And if its so safe, why not release the name? Other Mexican rests may suffer loss of business because of this, including this restaurant!"

While investigators might believe that avoiding the unnamed business isn’t going to reduce anyone’s risk of being part of the outbreak (the epidemiologists believe the risk of exposure doesn’t exist anymore?) releasing the name can help the investigators get better data. Getting the name out there might trigger some folks to report symptoms, especially if they have eaten at the implicated site.
Not releasing the name seems to be creating mistrust in the authorities, and other Mexican restaurants in the Spartanburg area.

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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.