Firefighters answer call, find sewage in kitchen, restaurant shut

A west St. Louis Mexican restaurant closed its doors on Thursday after learning of a possible food contamination.

KMOV reports firefighters and a fire marshal noticed sewage was backing up in the food preparation area of El Maguey on Manchester, Tuesday.  

The crew was called to the restaurant on an unrelated fire alarm but later El Magueydiscovered a pipe dripping sewage in the kitchen.

The owner tells News 4, a plumber that was brought in by the restaurant say the pipe was clear and ready to use earlier in the day.

El Maguey shut down immediately and began the cleaning process. The staff threw away food, any open liquor bottles and will be sanitizing the restaurant. The owner says he is also planning to steam clean the floors.

He hopes to finish the clean-up and gain permission to re-open by early next week.

Woman, 23, dies in St. Louis after contracting E. coli

A 23-year-old is dead after she got E. coli, possibly after eating at a local restaurant. Her family is now asking for an investigation into the restaurant.

KMOV reports Ciera Brookfield told her family that she felt sick after eating at a Chinese restaurant in Overland, near St. Louis, Missouri.

Ciera was just 23 when she passed away on Thursday. Her family says the Ladue Horton Watkins High School grad got sick after eating at Hon’s Wok, which is next door to where she worked at Woofie’s on Woodson Road.

"She came home about 8 that night. She came in, she laid down on the couch, she said ‘mom, I think I have food poisoning,’" said Donna Clark, Ciera’s mother. "I went to work, came back and she was very frantic, saying that she thought it was really bad."

That was last Thursday. By Friday night Ciera was in the ICU. Mercy Hospital confirms that she had E. coli. But Ciera also suffered from Sickle Cell disease, which made the infection worse.

"It went to her blood stream and for a person with sickle cell, it’s harder to fight it," Clark said.

As Ciera’s family grieves, they want the St. Louis County Health Department to investigate the Chinese restaurant.

"We don’t want anybody else to die like my daughter died," Clark said.

But it’s important to note that the CDC says E. coli symptoms usually appear three to four days after someone contracts the bacteria but that it can be as short as one day.

The St. Louis County Health Department cannot confirm that Ciera contracted E. coli at Hon’s Wok. The department is investigating a complaint there but says, at this point, it does not include E. coli.

"We’ve been open over 10 years and [nothing] like this [has happened] before," said Thao Vuong, Hon’s Wok manager.

At least 23 sick with E. coli O157 in St. Louis; produce suspected?

More residents are expected to be infected with E. coli bacteria in an outbreak that has already sickened at least 23 people across the St. Louis region and may be linked to produce at area groceries.

St. Louis County health officials confirmed that the source of the E. coli O157 strain was foodborne but said that the investigation was ongoing and that not all of the affected people had been interviewed. More cases are expected because the incubation period for E. coli can be as long as 10 days.

Scientists with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, who investigate multistate food-borne disease outbreaks, are expected to arrive in St. Louis over the weekend. Though groceries have not been asked to pull any food, Schnucks voluntarily replaced or removed some produce in salad bars and shelves.

"Once we heard that the health department had declared an outbreak, we took some proactive steps with our food safety team to switch products out that recent history told us could be potential sources," said Schnucks spokeswoman Lori Willis.

The last E. coli outbreak linked to produce occurred in May 2010 and involved romaine lettuce in five states not including Missouri or Illinois, according to the CDC. Another multistate outbreak in 2006 was linked to spinach.

Schnucks on Clayton Road in Richmond Heights voluntarily pulled strawberries, lettuce and croutons out of its salad bar on Wednesday, according to deli manager Mike Reardon.

"It was just a precautionary move," Reardon said, adding, "As far as I know, there haven’t been any problems with anything we’ve sold."

Another Schnucks store, Culinaria in downtown St. Louis, put a sign up on empty shelves that read in part, "Due to a voluntary recall on pre-packed lettuce, we will not be able to produce these pre-made salads. Be assured quality is our main concern. All of the lettuce on the salad bar is fresh and not involved with the recall."

Willis said prepacked lettuce was not necessarily a concern, but the smaller Culinaria store has different methods of stocking their salads. She added that no products had been recalled.

More E. coli, now in St Louis; at least 14 sick

Missouri health types have been notified of a suspected foodborne illness in the St. Louis metro area with 14 cases in the past 24 hours.

The Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services is assisting local health officials in the investigation, that includes testing for E. coli at the State Public Health Laboratory in Jefferson City, which has notified the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta.

Underground restaurants in St. Louis: how bored are Americans?

Food pornography is nothing new. Neither are so-called underground restaurants. That the St. Louis Post-Dispatch thinks both may be new and newsworthy may help explain the decline of American newspapers (and look at that cool arm decal in this pic from the Post, right, below).

Although underground restaurants have been popping up around the country for several years, this incarnation, launched last summer, appears to be the first of its kind in St. Louis.

Diners learn about an upcoming monthly dinner only through word of mouth. They sign up on a website using a pass code. On the day of the dinner, they get an e-mail telling them where to go. Sometimes it’s a private house; other times, it’s a rented space. …

Health department officials in the St. Louis area say underground restaurants violate health codes because they lack the proper inspections and permits.

"Even if a church sets up a buffet for a charity event, they need a permit," said Craig LeFebvre, a spokesman for the St. Louis County Health Department.

If someone invites friends to a private dining event in St. Louis County, they’re not violating any laws. But if they put up any signs — including a website — and the event is open to a paying public, they need a permit, explained Gerrin Cheek Butler of the county’s health department.

The chef, who asked not to be identified, said,

"The whole thing is an experience. It’s not just this consumer thing, where you show up, order, and get pushed out the door an hour later."

Correct. It’s a way to charge a premium for porn.