Golden Ponds: Lawsuits proceed 2 years after 306 sickened in Rochester’s worst food poisoning outbreak

On Thanksgiving Day in 2016, as many as 1,100 people ate their holiday dinner at Golden Ponds Restaurant and Party House, which was located just up Long Pond Road from the Greece Town Hall in Rochester, N.Y.

Within 24 hours, patrons began to experience stomach pain, cramping and diarrhea. Some were hospitalized and at least one underwent emergency surgery.

Eventually, 306 people who dined at Golden Ponds that day reported they had been sickened by the food, officials at the Monroe County Department of Public Health now say.

A public-health investigation later determined that the pernicious Clostridium perfringens bacteria that made people ill was in gravy that had been stored and served at an unacceptably low temperature.

“Rest assured there are a significant number of people who will never think of Thanksgiving the same way,” said Paul Vincent Nunes, a Rochester lawyer who has brought lawsuits against the defunct Greece restaurant. 

According to Steve Orr of the Democrat and Chronicle, here’s what’s happened since:

Golden Ponds is closed. The establishment at 500 Long Pond Road, which had been operated by Ralph Rinaudo for 33 years, was closed by the health department after the food poisoning episode. Improvements were made and the restaurant was allowed to open in late December. But business was predictably slow, and it closed for good in February 2017.

Rinaudo sold the property in January of this year to a corporation that shares the address of a Henrietta construction firm, Team FSI General Contractors. The building appears to be empty at present and future use of the property isn’t clear. Officials at FSI did not respond to a request for comment.

The health department has continued its practice of inspecting every restaurant once a year. It has not stepped up inspections of buffet-style eateries like Golden Ponds, spokesman Ryan Horey said. Inability to maintain food at the proper temperatures during buffet serving was key  factor in the Golden Ponds incident. The Democrat and Chronicle checked inspection records available on nydatabases.com for six Rochester-area buffet restaurants. Five of them have been cited by the health departments for serious violations involving foods being kept at the wrong temperature since the Golden Ponds episode.

Four lawsuits filed on behalf of 31 plaintiffs are pending against Golden Ponds. The four were consolidated into one case in July. Court-ordered mediation to seek a resolution before trial is set to begin soon. The cases are not suited for class-action status, as the damages incurred differed from one patron to the next, Nunes said.

Nunes said, “These were not just tummy aches. People were quite sick, some in the hospital. These are life-threatening events.”

1 dead, 163 sick from multidrug-resistant Salmonella infections linked to raw turkey products

In the run up to the beginning of the five-week orgy of food and shopping in the U.S. known as Thanksgiving, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and public health and regulatory officials in several states are investigating a multistate outbreak of multidrug-resistant Salmonella infections linked to raw turkey products. The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (USDA-FSIS) is monitoring the outbreak.

Seventy-four more ill people from 26 states were added to this investigation since the last update on July 19, 2018.

As of November 5, 2018, 164 people infected with the outbreak strain of Salmonella Reading have been reported from 35 states.

63 people have been hospitalized, and one death has been reported from California.

Epidemiologic and laboratory evidence indicates that raw turkey products from a variety of sources are contaminated with Salmonella Reading and are making people sick.

In interviews, ill people report eating different types and brands of turkey products purchased from many different locations. Three ill people lived in households where raw turkey pet food was fed to pets.

The outbreak strain has been identified in samples taken from raw turkey pet food, raw turkey products, and live turkeys.

A single, common supplier of raw turkey products or of live turkeys has not been identified.

The outbreak strain of Salmonella Reading is present in live turkeys and in many types of raw turkey products, indicating it might be widespread in the turkey industry. CDC and USDA-FSIS have shared this information with representatives from the turkey industry and asked about steps that they may be taking to reduce Salmonella contamination.

Always handle raw turkey carefully and cook it thoroughly to prevent food poisoning. This outbreak is a reminder that raw turkey products can have germs that spread around food preparation areas and can make you sick.

CDC is not advising that consumers avoid eating properly cooked turkey products, or that retailers stop selling raw turkey products.

CDC advises consumers to follow these steps to help prevent Salmonella infection from raw turkey:

Wash your hands. Salmonella infections can spread from one person to another. Wash hands before and after preparing or eating food, after contact with animals, and after using the restroom or changing diapers.

Cook raw turkey thoroughly to kill harmful germs. Turkey breasts, whole turkeys, and ground poultry, including turkey burgers, casseroles, and sausage, should always be cooked to an internal temperature of 165°F to kill harmful germs. Leftovers should be reheated to 165°F. Use a food thermometer to check, and place it in the thickest part of the food.

Don’t spread germs from raw turkey around food preparation areas. Washing raw poultry before cooking is not recommended. Germs in raw poultry juices can spread to other areas and foods. Thoroughly wash hands, counters, cutting boards, and utensils with warm, soapy water after they touch raw turkey. Use a separate cutting board for raw turkey and other raw meats if possible.

Thaw turkey in the refrigerator, in a sink of cold water that is changed every 30 minutes, or in the microwave. Never thaw your turkey by leaving it out on the counter.

CDC does not recommend feeding raw diets to pets. Germs like Salmonella in raw pet food can make your pets sick. Your family also can get sick by handling the raw food or by taking care of your pet.

Happy Thanksgiving and a sheep riding on a truck

To my Canadian brethren, who have consumed the 165F minimum temped bird and are now plopped on the couch watching hockey, including reruns of last night’s barnburner of a hockey game where our beloved but hapless (sorta like me) Toronto Maple Leafs pulled out a 7-6 overtime win against Chicago, I can say we did nothing to celebrate this year.

For every day is … never mind.

The house renovations just got finished, the bank account is empty, maybe we’ll pull something off for American Thanksgiving.

And now, a sheep riding on a truck in New Zealand.

“This is a highly unusual incident and not representative of how sheep are transported in New Zealand,” Ministry for Primary Industries spokesman Peter Hyde said.

Ellerslie resident Ada Rangiwai captured the sight on a cellphone while travelling along the city’s southern motorway. The sheep didn’t seem nervous and it was just standing there, unfazed by the attention.

“It was surfing,” she said.

And if you get a facebook request from me to be friends, ignore it. I, like millions of others, have been hacked.

Pop-up turkey thermometers can suck

I usually pull the pop-up thermometer out of my bird when I cook it. I’m a digital-tip-sensitive thermometer kind of guy. Last Thursday, while roasting this year’s turkey, I left mine in, as a bit of an experiment for my graduate student Minh, like last year’s Consumer Reports pop-up test:

We tested 21 pop-up thermometers in whole turkeys and turkey breasts. Our testing covered pop-up timers bought online and put into place by cooks before sliding the bird into the oven, and models pre-inserted in the meat at the processing plant. To determine the pop-ups’ accuracy, we also measured the internal temperature of the meat with a calibrated reference thermometer. Our findings may make a few eyebrows pop:

Self-inserted and manufacturer-inserted timers generally “popped” in our tests at internal temperatures above 165° F—the minimum safe temperature for all poultry. But three timers popped up when meat was still below that safe zone, one as low as 139.5° F.

Here’s mine (right, exactly as shown). Thanks pop-ups, I was only 20F (and 75 min of roasting) short.

 

260 sick after Thanksgiving meal in New York

The health department says it has now received 260 reports of illness related to Golden Ponds restaurant.

golden-pondsThe Monroe County Health Department says the updated number comes after speaking with 80 people who made reports. Spokesman John Ricci says those people mentioned family members and friends who also got sick after eating at the restaurant.

The restaurant was closed down last month after people started reporting getting sick after eating there on Thanksgiving. News10NBC found Golden Ponds had 106 violations since 2009.

golden-pond

3 dead, 5 sick after California Thanksgiving dinner

Three people died and five others were sickened over the weekend after a Thanksgiving dinner at the American Legion Hall in Antioch, according to county health officials.

dpturkey-16Eight people were treated at Sutter Delta hospital between Friday and Saturday, county officials said. It is not yet known if it is an outbreak of a foodborne illness. All the victims reportedly live together, officials said.

Sutter Delta Medical Center in Antioch confirmed they received eight patients with probable foodborne symptoms. Three patients died, four patients were treated and released and one patient remains hospitalized, officials said.

Contra Costa County Public Health Department is investigating the cause and does not believe there is any risk to the general public.

Food Safety Talk 113: A Tale of Two Outbreaks

Food Safety Talk, a bi-weekly podcast for food safety nerds, by food safety nerds. The podcast is hosted by Ben Chapman and barfblog contributor Don Schaffner, Extension Specialist in Food Science and Professor at Rutgers University. Every two weeks or so, Ben and Don get together virtually and talk for about an hour.english-novelist-charles-dickens

They talk about what’s on their minds or in the news regarding food safety, and popular culture. They strive to be relevant, funny and informative — sometimes they succeed. You can download the audio recordings right from the website, or subscribe using iTunes.

Episode 113 can be found here and on iTunes.

Show notes so you can follow along at home:

Post-Thanksgiving thanks — daily

Now that Thanksgiving is over, and bloated Americans are returning to work Monday thinking Donald Trump is going to be president, it’s prime time to step away from the food and shopping orgy and consider the things we’re thankful for, on a daily basis, not because some American president (FDR) declared it would be the fourth Thursday in Nov.

sorenne-tedI like my parents and sister who still talk with me although I’ve been sortofa dick for a long time.

I like Amy, and Sorenne, and the other 4 daughters, who still talk with me, and some even live with me, although I’ve been sortofa dick for a long time.

My friends, and their spouses, who still talk with me, although I’ve been sortofa dick for a long time.

I like coaching hockey.

I’m thankful our hockey club – or at least me – is going to focus on the club rather than the individual.

I like the new dog, Ted, (size due to townhouse body corporate regs).

I like that Australians are sorta dumb about Thanksgiving  (Australia, you’re an agricultural exporting country, it’s a celebration of the fucking harvest).

I’m thankful I didn’t make anyone barf at our annual Thanksgiving feast (it’s real easy to screw up cooking turkey for 50 people).

And, after five years, I can now say, I’m thankful I live in Brisbane.

Beaches are awesome.

So are the people.

Plenty to be thankful for — every day.

Thanksgiving is in the heart, or stomach: Clostridium perfringens outbreak associated with a catered lunch — North Carolina, November 2015

Yesterday, while picking Sorenne up from school I asked several of the attendees at our Thanksgiving feast in the park on Saturday, if there was any intestinal upset.

All clear.

doug-turkey-cater-nov-16I was especially concerned about C. perfringens, what with the prior cooking of the turkeys and the transporting to the park, and the outside temp of90F as we move into summer, but I would have heard by Sunday.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control reports that in November 2015, the North Carolina Division of Public Health was notified by the Pitt County Health Department (PCHD) that approximately 40 persons who attended a catered company Thanksgiving lunch the previous day were ill with diarrhea and abdominal pain. The North Carolina Division of Public Health and PCHD worked together to investigate the source of illness and implement control measures.

Within hours of notification, investigators developed and distributed an online survey to all lunch attendees regarding symptoms and foods consumed and initiated a cohort study.

A case of illness was defined as abdominal pain or diarrhea in a lunch attendee with illness onset <24 hours after the event. Risk ratios (RRs) and 95% confidence intervals (CIs) were estimated for all menu items. Among 80 attendees, 58 (73%) completed the survey, including 44 respondents (76%) who reported illnesses meeting the case definition; among these, 41 (93%) reported diarrhea, and 40 (91%) reported abdominal pain. There were no hospitalizations. Symptom onset began a median of 13 hours after lunch (range = 1–22 hours). Risk for illness among persons who ate turkey or stuffing (38 of 44; 86%), which were plated and served together, was significantly higher than risk for illness among those who did not eat turkey or stuffing (six of 14; 43%) (RR = 2.02; 95% CI = 1.09–3.73).

PCHD collected stool specimens from ill persons and samples of leftover food from the company that hosted the lunch. Stool specimens were tested for norovirus and bacterial enteric pathogens at the North Carolina State Laboratory for Public Health. Based on reported symptoms and short interval between the lunch and symptom onset, a toxin was suspected as the cause of the outbreak; therefore, five stool specimens from ill persons and 20 food samples were submitted to CDC for Clostridium perfringens detection.

debbiedownerthanksgiving_postStools were tested for C. perfringens enterotoxin (CPE) using reversed passive latex agglutination. Stool culture and enumeration of C. perfringens colony forming units (CFU) were performed for five samples of foods implicated by the epidemiologic investigation (one stuffing sample and four turkey samples). Because meat is the most common source of C. perfringens outbreaks (1), one ham sample also was analyzed, although consumption of ham was not associated with an increased risk for illness. CPE was detected in all five stool specimens. C. perfringens containing the C. perfringens enterotoxin gene (cpe) was recovered from all five stool specimens and from all four turkey samples; one turkey sample contained >105 CFU/g. C. perfringens was not recovered from samples of other foods. No other pathogens were detected in stool specimens. Collectively, laboratory results met CDC guidelines for confirming C. perfringens as the outbreak source (3).

PCHD environmental health specialists interviewed the caterer about food handling and preparation practices. The North Carolina Food Code requires that all commercial caterers operate in a facility that has been inspected for compliance and permitted by the regulatory authority (4). The caterer had previously maintained a permitted facility, but reported having prepared the lunch food served at this event in an uninspected, residential kitchen. Turkeys were cooked approximately 10 hours before lunch, placed in warming pans, and plated in individual servings. Food was then delivered by automobile, which required multiple trips. After cooking and during transport, food sat either in warming pans or at ambient temperature for up to 8 hours. No temperature monitoring was conducted after cooking.

C. perfringens toxicoinfection (a foodborne illness caused by ingestion of toxin-producing bacteria) is often associated with consumption of meat that has been improperly prepared and handled (1,2). Because diagnostic testing is not widely available, C. perfringens can go undetected as a cause of foodborne illness outbreaks (2,3,5). Diagnostic testing to assist with outbreak source identification is useful to corroborate epidemiologic information, document disease prevalence, and guide prevention recommendations.

Epidemiologic, laboratory, and environmental evidence indicate that this outbreak was caused by consumption of turkey prepared by a commercial caterer operating in an unpermitted kitchen. Inadequate facilities, extended time between turkey preparation and consumption, and failure to monitor and control temperature before and during transport resulted in an anerobic environment conducive to C. perfringens spore germination and growth (6). Prompt local health department response, use of an online survey, and rapid collaboration between local, state, and federal public health agencies were instrumental in identifying the outbreak source quickly and preventing additional cases.

These findings confirm the need for commercial food preparers to adhere to existing food safety regulations (4), including use of permitted facilities and having a certified kitchen manager on staff. Caterers should be aware of the risks associated with improper storage of prepared food for long periods and the importance of temperature monitoring and regulation during food preparation and handling.

Get stuffed?

I wrote the below for NC State News.

As a Canadian in the U.S. I’ve fully embraced the holiday season that runs from Thanksgiving through December. I enjoy spending a day planning and shopping for an event-style meal, and then another day actually preparing and cooking it. I throw on some tunes (this year it will probably be Drake, for my Canadian roots, and the Avett Brothers as a nod to North Carolina) and with the help of the rest of the family I’ll roast a turkey, make mashed potatoes, green beans, squash, beets and a couple of other harvest vegetables.

And we’ll make a lot of stuffing.stuffing-header-825x464

Depending on your preference and food persuasion there are lots of different stuffing or dressing options.

A common question that pops up is whether it’s better to cook stuffing it in the bird to preserve moisture (and get flavored by the turkey juices) or prepare it as a separate dish. The concern is that if someone puts the stuffing in the turkey cavity it may become contaminated by the turkey juices and Salmonella and Campylobacter will migrate through the stuffing. Easier to recommend not messing with the cross-contamination instead of managing the risk. But what does the science say?

I’m a food safety nerd and take a science-based approached to my meals. Armed with a digital, tip-sensitive thermometer I’m happy to jam stuffing up inside of my poultry and use the probe to check the temperature. And I use 165 degrees Fahrenheit as a target for my bread-based stuffing.

There’s some history to that number; in 1958 Raymond Rogers and Millard Gunderson of the Campbell Soup Company published some work evaluating the safety of roasting frozen stuffed turkeys (a new product at the time). Using a known amount of Salmonella pullorum, nine turkeys and some then-fancy ceramic thermocouples, they found that they could get an 8-log (or 99.999999%) reduction when the deepest part of the stuffing hit 160 degrees Fahrenheit. They recommended 165 degrees to be conservative (and because some thermometers aren’t always very accurate).

From the manuscript (comments that still apply today): “The initial temperature and the size of the turkey influence considerably the time required to reach a lethal temperature in the stuffing. The lower the initial temperature of the turkey, the longer the roasting period required. Present recommended roasting procedures designating hours cooking time or which stipulate a thigh or breast temperature to be attained alone does not appear to be adequate bacteriologically.”

Inside the bird, outside the bird; meat or no meat: Use a thermometer.

For your holiday viewing, here’s a video devoted to minimizing risk from foodborne illness when cooking turkey. More food safety tips are available here.