New Jersey restaurant at center of hepatitis A outbreak closes

The Hamilton restaurant where four people contracted Hepatitis A at the end of 2014 has permanently closed its doors.

hep.aRosa’s Restaurant, the South Broad Street mainstay, quietly announced that it was closing its doors with small signs hanging on the front and rear doors thanking its customers.

Rosa Spera-Gilmore, the restaurant’s owner and namesake, said in an interview Wednesday Rosa’s last hurrah was a New Year’s Eve party that attracted 300.

“Coming to America from Italy at the age of 11, I never imagined I’d one day own and run my own business,” Spera-Gilmore said. “I was glad that being a business owner let me put others to work and to give back to the community by supporting a lot of civic events and groups. These are the things I’ll think about when I think about the old restaurant.”

A confirmed case of Hepatitis A has been traced to a food worker employed at Rosa’s Restaurant and Catering in Hamilton, officials said late Monday

Spera-Gilmore said the catering portion of the business will continue, despite the demise of the restaurant, but she declined to cite the hepatitis A outbreak as a contributing factor in the closure.

Four people linked to the restaurant were diagnosed with hepatitis A beginning in Dec. 2014.

In response, the township sponsored a vaccination clinic for township residents and urged others to consult their physicians for a vaccine.

The disease originated with an employee of the restaurant, with the remaining cases reported in customers, including a hairstylist and fitness instructor who had regular interaction with the general public.

“There’s some question regarding their hand washing procedures,” Jeff Plunkett, township health officer, said at the time. “The cases certainly have a possibility of being linked, but it’s hard to say whether the gentleman infected himself or contracted it somewhere else and brought it to the facility.”

The restaurant had a history of health violations before and after the outbreak. 

Inspectors found multiple violations related to hand washing, food storage and preparation between October 2014 and January 2015.

On Dec. 1, 2014, inspectors visited the site after the original employee was diagnosed with hepatitis A, ordering food destroyed, surfaces sanitized and denaturing of certain products, such as soups that couldn’t be placed in the trash, by pouring bleach on them.

Inspectors intervened after employees briefly began preparing meals for new customers using food they were ordered to throw away, improperly washed their hands and handled food with bare hands.

The Township Committee considered local legislation that would have imposed stiffer fines on restaurants with health code violations, but in March opted to postpone a vote on an ordinance that would have tripled inspection fees on restaurants that fail two or more health inspections.

“I’m grateful for the years of patronage and so many customers who became family,” Spera-Gilmore said. “I look forward in the year ahead to starting a new business that will focus exclusively on catering.”

Jersey officials plan database of restaurant health inspection reports, higher fines for violations


Spurred on by the outbreak of Hepatitis A linked to a food server at Rosa’s Restaurant and Catering, Hamilton Township in New Jersey is taking steps to ensure that every consumer knows just how safe — or unsafe — food establishments are, with an online database of food inspection reports scheduled to go live within the next few months.

jon.stewart.handwashing.2002“Accountability is everything,” township health officer Jeff Plunkett said on Friday. He said a new ordinance is also being drafted to increase fines for health code violations.

The new database will allow customers to simply search for the name of a restaurant to view its health inspection reports, Mayor Kelly Yaede said Friday.

“This is an initiative we’ve been working on for a year,” Yaede said, attributing the concept to one proposed by San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee at the 2014 U.S. Conference of Mayors.

“The number one goal of our health office is to maintain the public safety of our residents,” Yaede said. “This tool makes these restaurant inspection reports more readily available to individuals when they’re making a choice of whether they’re going to patronize a restaurant.”

It isn’t clear whether a restaurant’s entire history or recent history of inspection reports will be available, Yaede said.

“As much information as we have that’s accessible will be released to the public,” Yaede said.

The software will hopefully provide an incentive for restaurants to maintain clean bills of health: It could provide a sales boost for the cleanliest establishments and motivation for less cleanly restaurants to fix problems, Yaede said.

“It would be a positive tool for a majority of restaurants in Hamilton to help them promote their business,” Yaede said.

“And if you don’t have a good report? There’s more of a bite in it for enforcement,” Plunkett said.

Not taking hep A exposure seriously may have led to additional illness

Hamilton (NJ) Township health officer Jeff Plunkett held press conference on additional hepatitis A illnesses potentially linked to Rosa’s Restaurant and Catering today and the transcript was posted by the Times of Trenton.

Both individuals ate at the restaurant during the initial exposure window – one got an IgG shot (an employee of a spa), one did not (a fitness instructor at a local Y).


The biggest takeaway was this:

2:27 p.m.: The [yoga] instructor told Plunkett that she did not take the initial situation at Rosa’s seriously and did not get the vaccine.

Hep A is serious stuff.

Two additional cases of hepatitis A linked to Rosa’s Restaurant and Catering in Hamilton, NJ.

A big problem with hepatitis A is that a food handler can shed the virus for a month without showing symptoms – and an infected customer may not show symptoms for a few weeks either. An incident that looks like it is over can linger. According to Hamilton New Jersey health officials, the virus has spread from a food handler at Rosa’s Restaurant and Catering to a salon employee.

Here comes another round of IgG shots.gech_0001_0002_0_img0129

Hamilton officials confirmed two more cases of hepatitis A in the township a month after a food handler at Rosa’s Restaurant and Catering first contracted the virus.

Health officials were notified late Wednesday night by Robert Wood Johnson Hospital Hamilton and the state Department of Health that an employee of The Hair Port Salon on South Broad Street was diagnosed with hepatitis A. The employee has been released from the hospital and is recovering at home, officials said.

Staff and customers who visited the salon between Dec. 4 and Wednesday may be at risk of contracting the virus and should be vaccinated if they have not already done so, officials said.

In the second case, hepatitis A was confirmed Thursday in a fitness instructor at the Hamilton Area YMCA’s JKR branch on Whitehorse-Mercerville Road, officials said.

Officials confirmed that both individuals had eaten at or from Rosa’s during the first case, but could not say with certainty whether the two additional cases were a direct result. Just last week, township health officer Jeff Plunkett said the incubation period was set to end Jan. 11 and no new cases had emerged at the time.