Unlicensed Washington caterer exposes dozens to Salmonella

Kenny Ocker of The News Tribune reports that Rick Stevenson told health inspectors he used the kitchen in a buddy’s rental house in Snohomish County to cook chicken, along with other fixings, for an event nearby in early July.

tacoma.catererBut officials say Stevenson, who runs the unlicensed Mr. Rick’s Catering out of a Tacoma home, failed to cook the chicken through and sickened several people with salmonella.

The Tacoma-Pierce County Health Department had contacted Stevenson multiple times since 2012 telling him to shut down his business. After the Snohomish County incident, the department fined him $710 for continuing to operate without a permit.

Department spokeswoman Edie Jeffers said Wednesday that the state Department of Health is leading the investigation into the food poisoning because the people who attended the event came from throughout Washington.

State spokeswoman Julie Graham said the state has confirmed three cases of salmonella from the July 2 event, which about 175 people attended. At least a dozen more responded to a survey of attendees, saying they also were sickened.

Symptoms of salmonella include diarrhea, fever, chills, dehydration and abdominal pain.

At the event, Stevenson served chicken, pulled pork, pork ribs, baked beans, macaroni and cheese, Italian pasta salad, green salad and some beverages, according to Christina Sherman, an environmental health specialist for the county health department.

“From discussing his processes with him, we could see that he didn’t have enough equipment to prepare all of this food safely and didn’t have enough equipment to keep it warm once it was prepared,“ Christina Sherman, Tacoma-Pierce County Health Department.

Rachel Knight, food safety program manager at Tacoma-Pierce County Health Department, said “Local caterers with the appropriate permit to prepare and serve food at events are responsible for following food safety rules—and protecting the public’s health.”