Know thy suppliers: Seattle restaurant Matador reopens after E. coli outbreak

Following an E. coli outbreak that sickened seven people, the Matador is back open. The favorite Ballard restaurant opened its doors Saturday morning after a week-long closure.

matador-seattleOn Thursday, public health officials inspected the restaurant and found that it had been thoroughly cleaned and sanitized.

One of the E. coli victims is a 16-year-old girl who was hospitalized after becoming anemic and suffering kidney failure. Her family is suing the Matador for the outbreak.

Elisa Hahn of King 5 reports on Friday, Matador’s chief culinary officer agreed to allow our cameras inside and talk about the investigation.

“We’re proud of the way we operate our kitchen and the cleanliness and sanitation practices that have always been in place,” said Tom Small. “When something like this happens, and you realize there isn’t anything you can do to prevent it, it’s incredibly impactful.”

Back in the kitchen, the staff was deseeding jalapenos and roasted peppers. The prep work in a Mexican restaurant is a time-consuming process. Just like these jalapenos, Matador has gone through a gutting.

“We’re down to zero product, starting from scratch,” said one employee.

After grilling the staff about possible illnesses, investigators are now leaning away from blaming food handling, focusing more on products and suppliers.

Matador customer: E. coli illness ‘worst pain you could imagine’

A Seattle woman who became ill in the recent E. coli outbreak described it as the “worst pain you could imagine.”

king_annamarie_kirkpatrick_1473816059517_6036798_ver1-033-year-old Annamarie Kirkpatrick said she ate at Matador in Seattle’s Ballard neighborhood on August 20. She became ill with severe abdominal pain five days later.

“Probably the worst pain you could imagine,” she said. “But just having a doctor tell you we think it’s this, we think it’s this, having six diagnoses in three days was probably the worst.”

Kirkpatrick is one of six people who became ill after eating at the restaurant.

The sign on the door Tuesday said the restaurant was temporarily closed. Health investigators say they are still searching for the source.

“It’s scary to think you go out to a restaurant and order food, and they’re supposed to be the healthiest friendliest places, you would think. And you end up contracting an illness,” Kirkpatrick said.

10 sick: E. coli strain that closed Matador restaurant found elsewhere

JoNel Aleccia of The Seattle Times reports that an outbreak of E. coli O157:H7 that closed the Matador restaurant in Seattle’s Ballard neighborhood last week appears to be linked to more illnesses in Washington and three other states, health officials said Monday.

matador-seattleIn addition to the five illnesses linked to the Matador, two more Washington cases — one in Skagit County, one in Snohomish County — have been detected that have no connection with the Matador, a spokeswoman with the state Department of Health said Monday.

And three cases with the same genetic fingerprint have been detected in three other states, officials with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention indicated. One of those people visited Seattle and ate at the Matador in Ballard.

That’s a total of 10 cases of what are known as STEC infections — but just six of those cases appear related to the restaurant.

Such dispersed illnesses indicate that the problem might not lie entirely with the Matador in Ballard. The restaurant closed Friday after inspectors with Public Health – Seattle & King County said they temporarily suspended the firm’s food business permit to allow thorough cleaning and sanitizing.

“It’s looking more like a potential source, a contaminated product,” said Dr. Meagan Kay, a medical epidemiologist with King County.

State and federal officials have taken over the probe, she added.

Restaurant owner Zak Melang, who runs 14 sites in several states, said the problem may lie with an outside vendor. He urged health officials to investigate quickly to clear his name.

“It’s our reputation on the line,” he said Monday. “The questions aren’t stopping.”

Since 2010, the Matador has been cited 10 times for food-handling practices linked to higher risks of food-borne disease, according to public-health records. Six of those violations were for failure to keep food at the proper cold holding temperatures, which keeps bacteria growth in check, the records show.

5 sick: Seattle restaurant closed after links to E. coli

King County Public Health is investigating an outbreak of E. coli at the Matador restaurant in Ballard that sickened five people.

matador-seattleHealth officials said in all five cases, customers developed symptoms including diarrhea and abdominal cramps after eating at the restaurant late last month. Three of those people had to be hospitalized, and one of those patients developed a kidney problem. All five people have since recovered.

Laboratory tests determined all five people had the same strain of E. coli.

The restaurant has been temporarily closed while the health department investigates the cause of the contamination. The restaurant will also be thoroughly cleaned and sanitized.