The Salt Lake County Health Department has determined that a food item served at a dining hall was likely the cause of illnesses that sent nearly 60 people who are homeless to hospitals in Salt Lake City Sunday night.
According to a press release from the Salt Lake County Health Department, investigators determined that soup served at St. Vincent de Paul Dining Hall contained Staphylococcal enterotoxin, which is a common cause of foodborne illness when the bacteria is introduced to improperly heated or cooled food. The bacteria is found on human skin.
“I felt like my stomach was going to actually explode — it felt like my intestines were going to explode. I started vomiting before the paramedics got there,” Mark Hofheins told FOX 13 News earlier this week.
The release states St. Vincent de Paul Dining Hall has cooperated fully with the department and that investigators began observing kitchen operations Monday to ensure kitchen workers were following health regulations.
Officials stated the kitchen undergoes surprise inspections twice each year and has “consistently done well” in those.
“This incident at St. Vincent de Paul Dining Hall appears to be an isolated food handling error,” said Andrea Gamble, SLCHD environmental health scientist. “Unfortunately, a single lapse in temperature controls or food-contact protocols can cause problems.”
Health Department officials said a dining hall must follow the same rules for food service as a restaurant, and as such volunteers who do not have a food handler’s permit can only serve food that has already been prepared by those at the dining hall who do have the necessary permits.
The Salt Lake County Health Department closed down a Middle Eastern restaurant on Thursday after inspectors found sheep being slaughtered in the back parking lot and goats and dogs being cared for on the premises.
The Middle Eastern Pastries and Deli, 3336 S. Main, Salt Lake City, was cited for 47 violations in all, creating an “imminent health hazard,” according to a report on the department website.
Among the most egregious health violations found by inspectors:
- Live sheep are being stored and slaughtered onsite in the back parking lot.
- A plastic bag with sheep limbs and a sheep head found in the back area.
- Live goats and dogs being cared for on the premises and the handwashing sink blocked and not being used.
- Kitchen is in a garage and the door is open and the kitchen is not protected from contamination.
- Food is not separated from car oil and maintenance tools in the back lot.
- Clean dishes are being dried and stored in the mop sink because the drain boards are not big enough to accommodate clean and dirty dishes.
- Chicken is thawing in stagnant water outside unprotected in the back lot of the establishment.
- A chemical spray bottle is stored above a food preparation area.
- Raw meat is stored above ready-to-eat foods in the walk-in cooler.
Armchair microbiologist Rick Ledbetter with the Salt Lake County Health Department says that to avoid Cryptosporidium in pools, “Wash your bum! Use plenty of soap, scrub down thoroughly. If you’re a mom of little children, use diapers, wash their bum and make sure you wash your hands before you come back to the pool so again we’re not spreading germs.”
Salt Lake County battled an outbreak of cryptosporidium in 2007 and a spike in cases in 2012. Health officials say it can be easily prevented — if swimmers practice proper hygiene before diving into the pool.
At the Redwood Recreation Center, the pool is closed for five minutes every hour to encourage people to take a bathroom break, rather than going in the pool. Every other hour, the water is tested for bacteria.
The pool’s manager, Avonte King-Henry, said they’re vigilant about germs, knowing how fast crypto can spread.
“Super fast, especially with diarrhea,” he said. “That cloud that happens, it just spreads so fast. It’s so important to get them out and close the pool off.”