Of course people don’t work when they’re sick: Six Ajuua’s employees test positive for Salmonella, 33 sick in total

Six Ajuua’s Mexican Restaurant employees have tested positive for salmonella, but officials do not know if they contracted the infection before or after the outbreak was caught by Ector County health officials.

ajuua'sEctor County Health Department Director Gino Solla said the tests for the six employees came to the department Monday, and the number of lab-confirmed tests has increased to 10 since the outbreak was confirmed on June 6. The number of probable cases, he added, was now at 23.

Those six employees have not been interviewed by the health department, Solla said, adding that when they do, it was unlikely they would confess to carrying the infection while working. Solla added to see if those employees got sick from the food, they would have to test the food that has already been thrown out.

“Common sense tells us no employee is going to say ‘I was sick,’ ” Solla said. “It’s very unlikely they’re going to fess up.”

Julian Rubio, CEO for Ajuua’s, said the six employees who tested positive do not reflect on the cleanliness of the restaurant, referring to the 97 and 100 restaurant report scores Ajuua’s got on Feb. 4 and April 13 respectively.

Rubio also said he was surprised to have six employees test positive.

“These employees never mentioned any signs of being sick or having any symptoms,” Rubio said. “We thought we were going to get everyone back negative.”

Of those 10 lab-confirmed cases, five are men and the other five are women, with an age range between 36 and 84 years old, Solla said. For the probable cases, 13 are men, seven are women and three are unknown, he added.

E. coli hitching a ride in healthy Japanese food handlers

The actual state of intestinal long-term colonization by extended-spectrum β-lactamase (ESBL)-producing Escherichia coli in healthy Japanese people remains unclear. Therefore, a total of 4,314 fecal samples were collected from 2,563 food handlers from January 2010 to December 2011.

tokyo-japan-shibuya-tokyu-food-show-depachika-600Approximately 0.1 g of each fecal sample was inoculated onto a MacConkey agar plate containing cefotaxime (1 μg/ml). The bacterial colonies that grew on each plate were checked for ESBL production by the double-disk synergy test, as recommended by the Clinical and Laboratory Standards Institute. The bacterial serotype, antimicrobial susceptibility, pulsotype, sequence type (ST), and ESBL genotype were checked, and the replicon types of plasmids harboring the ESBL gene were also determined after conjugation experiments.

ESBL producers were recovered from 70 (3.1%) of 2,230 participants who were checked only once. On the other hand, ESBL producers were isolated at least once from 52 (15.6%) of 333 participants who were checked more than twice, and 13 of the 52 participants carried ESBL producers for from more than 3 months to up to 2 years. Fluoroquinolone (FQ)-resistant E. coli strains harboring blaCTX-M were repeatedly recovered from 11 of the 13 carriers of blaCTX-M-harboring E. coli. A genetically related FQ-resistant E. coli O25b:H4-ST131 isolate harboring blaCTX-M-27 was recovered from 4 of the 13 carriers for more than 6 months. Three FQ-resistant E. coli O1:H6-ST648 isolates that harbored blaCTX-M-15 or blaCTX-M-14 were recovered from 3 carriers. Moreover, multiple CTX-M-14- or CTX-M-15-producing E. coli isolates with different serotypes were recovered from 2 respective carriers.

These findings predict a provable further spread of ESBL producers in both community and clinical settings.

Long-term colonization by blaCTX-M-harboring Escherichia coli in healthy Japanese people engaged in food handling

Applied and Environmental Microbiology; March 2016; vol. 82; no. 6; 1818-1827

Kunihiko Nakane, Kumiko Kawamura, Kensuke Goto and Yoshichika Arakawa


Nosestretcher alert: foodborne illness never happens to us: even if employees show up sick

Two separate cases of food poisoning at Indiana eateries in the past two weeks have sickened more than 100 people, and created one additional entry to the we’ve-always-done-things-this-way-and-no-one-has-ever-gotten-sick file.

The Journal Gazette cited Mindy Waldron, the Fort Wayne-Allen County Department of Health administrator, said customers fell ill with norovirus after eating at El Azteca Mexican restaurant at 535 E. State Blvd. on April 2.

That outbreak followed, but was not directly related to, another norovirus outbreak among those who dined at Cebolla’s Mexican Grill at 5930 W. Jefferson Blvd. in Time Corners on March 25.

The Journal Gazette reported the outbreak at Cebolla’s on March 31 after being alerted by a reader. The health department responded to requests for information, saying there were at least 20 patrons involved in the outbreak at that time.

The outbreak at El Azteca was not reported publicly until Waldron’s report Monday to the Allen County Board of Health, with the report noting the investigations had been concluded. Both outbreaks were traced to sick employees who reported for work in spite of their illness, according to Waldron.

Co-owner of El Azteca, Cristina Ray Durnell, said they took the issue seriously and did everything asked by the Department of Health.

“We’ve been here 38 years and never had anything like this happen,” Ray Durnell said. “Our customers and their safety are our No. 1 priority. That was two weeks ago and we have dealt with it.”

At Cebolla’s, health officials were able to identify 249 patrons who were potentially exposed. The health department received 66 complaints and 109 people had symptoms of the virus, Waldron said. The El Azteca outbreak involved 35 patrons – all of whom had symptoms – and 10 complaints were received.

Michigan candy maker recalls treats because employees had norovirus

Murdick’s Famous Fudge of Charlevoix has issued a voluntary recall of some of its products because they may have been handled by ill store employees.

The Times Herald reports the recall was initiated after the local health department investigation of alleged illnesses associated with eating caramels produced at this location indicated that some employees of Murdick’s Famous Fudge had been exhibiting symptoms typically attributed to a norovirus infection. 

Included in the recall are individually wrapped caramels (all varieties); peanut brittle; cashew brittle; and saltwater taffy (all varieties).

The recalled caramels, nut brittles and saltwater taffy were sold from the Charlevoix Murdick’s Famous Fudge store on Bridge Street only. This recall does not affect any other Murdick’s locations.

Did you just vomit or are you my waiter? Or both

Do people prepare and serve food at restaurants and other forms of food service, while barfing or crapping?

They sure do.

Is that a risk factor for disease transmission?


A bunch of U.S. researchers interviewed 491 food workers and their managers (n = 387) in nine states and found that 12 per cent of workers said they had worked while suffering vomiting or diarrhea on two or more shifts in the previous year.

“Factors associated with workers having worked while experiencing vomiting or diarrhea were (i) high volume of meals served, (ii) lack of policies requiring workers to report illness to managers, (iii) lack of on-call workers, (iv) lack of manager experience, and (v) workers of the male gender.”

The researchers acknowledged the study had several limitations – the uselessness of self-reported data, workers that were interviewed were chosen by the boss, not randomly, and not all infectious workers experience symptoms such as vomiting and diarrhea.

What the researchers do not seem to have acknowledged is this: not everyone who works at a restaurant is barfing or crapping because they are infectious or ill; some are just hungover.

Factors associated with food workers working while experiencing vomiting or diarrhea
Journal of Food Protection®, Volume 74, Number 2, February 2011 , pp. 215-220(6)
Sumner, Steven; Brown, Laura Green; Frick, Roberta; Stone, Carmily; Carpenter, L. Rand; Bushnell, Lisa; Nicholas, Dave; Mack, James; Blade, Henry; Tobin-D’Angelo, Melissa; Everstine, Karen
This study sought to determine the frequency with which food workers said they had worked while experiencing vomiting or diarrhea, and to identify restaurant and worker characteristics associated with this behavior. We conducted interviews with food workers (n = 491) and their managers (n = 387) in the nine states that participate in the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Environmental Health Specialists Network. Restaurant and worker characteristics associated with repeatedly working while experiencing vomiting or diarrhea were analyzed via multivariable regression. Fifty-eight (11.9%) workers said they had worked while suffering vomiting or diarrhea on two or more shifts in the previous year. Factors associated with workers having worked while experiencing vomiting or diarrhea were (i) high volume of meals served, (ii) lack of policies requiring workers to report illness to managers, (iii) lack of on-call workers, (iv) lack of manager experience, and (v) workers of the male gender. Our findings suggest that policies that encourage workers to tell managers when they are ill and that help mitigate pressures to work while ill could reduce the number of food workers who work while experiencing vomiting or diarrhea.

Norovirus chef Heston Blumenthal says he uses science

A report in the U.K. Times says that celebrity chef Heston Blumenthal was just 19 years old when the way he thought about food was changed for ever. Food writer Harold McGee had just published a book at a time when people thought that science had very little to do with cooking, setting Blumenthal on what was to become his mission in life – using science to create his now famous culinary masterpieces.

A little more science may have informed chef that poop happens to oyster beds, it’s a good thing to check out suppliers, and people who are sick shouldn’t be serving food – that’s how to make over 500 people sick, like your restaurant did in 2009.

Harvard club to reopen after sickening 300; norovirus in staffers still suspected

When did the Harvard Crimson turn into the Harvard Lampoon (which begat National Lampoon in 1970)? In all seriousness, this is some funny stuff.

The venerable Harvard newspaper, the Crimson, reports that “after closing for more than a month due to a norovirus outbreak that sickened over 300 people, the Harvard Faculty Club will reopen for private events on Monday.

“The Club, which had been undergoing inspections for food safety, reopened for overnight guests on May 6. The restaurant portion of the Club will officially reopen in early June.”

Sure all the food has been thrown out and every surface scrubbed, but nothing was said about allegations that first aired Saturday that up to 14 staffers worked while sick – a food service no-no (at least on paper).

Samuel D. Stuntz ’10—who plans to hold his wedding reception at the Faculty Club at the end of May—said that he and his fiancee, Elizabeth A. Cook ’10, are not concerned about the virus outbreak, adding,

“The fact that they were closed for so long shows that they were obviously really devoted to not doing anything unless it was absolutely safe. It’s a really popular place so that obviously means we assumed they were working really hard to get it fixed. I’m not worried about it at all,"

Rooms at the Club during Commencement week start at $429 per night for a three-night minimum.

Is the norovirus extra?