Bill Stanley, an 83-year-old six-term county commissioner from North Carolina, had breakfast at the Crowne Plaza Hotel in Northeast Portland last July.
As reported by Lynne Terry of The Oregonian, Stanley was in town for a nationwide meeting of county commissioners but become violently ill several hours after breakfast.
According to a state outbreak investigation, was one of seven people sickened after breakfast that morning at. All of them ate eggs benedict. An eighth person, who ordered eggs benedict but had the hollandaise sauce on the side and didn’t consume it, felt fine.
No one else got sick, pointing to the hollandaise sauce as the culprit.
Oregon heath officials couldn’t test it for pathogens, however. The hotel threw it away after breakfast service.
But lab tests confirmed that Stanley — and another person hospitalized in the outbreak — were sickened by a strain of Staphylococcus aureus, a bacterium commonly found on the skin and in the noses of healthy people. Certain strains produce toxins that can spark quick and acute gastrointestinal symptoms.
The same strain was found in a nasal swab of one of the food workers at Crowne Plaza.
Dr. Mathieu Tourdjman, lead Oregon epidemiologist investigating the outbreak, said the sauce became toxic because it was not kept hot enough.
Unlike many other pathogens, the toxins produced by Staph cannot be killed by cooking. The only way to prevent foodborne Staph infections is by thorough hand washing and proper cooking. Food safety advocates recommend keeping cooked food warm at 140 degrees Fahrenheit or more.
The temperature of the hollandaise sauce was not monitored by kitchen staff at Crowne Plaza, Tourdjman found.
The outbreak shocked the hotel, according to general manager Ziggy Lopuszynski, who said the hotel has taken the hollandaise sauce off the menu.
Stanley is suing for medical expenses of nearly $14,000 and $26,000 in noneconomic damages. The hotel has balked at the settlement.