The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has taken the lead in the investigation of a multi-state Salmonella outbreak linked to Fig & Olive restaurants. The agency is working in collaboration with health officials in various states.
The Washington DC Department of Health (DOH) and Department of Forensic Sciences (DFS) are among the agencies collaborating on the investigation. DFS has collected and tested food and environmental samples taken from Fig & Olive in DC’s CityCenter. So far, 45 food samples and 15 environmental samples have been negative for Salmonella. Results on 10 other tests are still pending.
DOH has interviewed 135 people who became ill after eating at the restaurant. Those who became ill are from DC, Maryland, Pennsylvania, Virginia, Illinois and Alabama. Fourteen cases of salmonellosis have been confirmed. Interviews are ongoing.
Some of those who became ill ate at the restaurant over Labor Day weekend. After illnesses were reported, the restaurant closed for six days and was cleared to reopen September 16 after it had been sanitized, employees debriefed, food discarded and problematic menu items retired. Case patients reported eating truffle fries or mushroom croquettes, those items have been removed from the menu. Since the reopening, DOH has made two visits, September 16 and September 18, to monitor employee training and food handling procedures.
Meanwhile, Salmonella illnesses have also been reported in connection with the Fig & Olive of Melrose Place in West Hollywood. At least 12 people who ate at that location became ill. So far, nine cases are confirmed. Of those, six are patrons and three are employees, the Los Angeles County Health Department told Food Poisoning Bulletin. Truffle oil is also suspected in those illnesses. A recall for truffle oil has not been issued because Fig & Olive makes its own.
In a joint statement released today, DOH and DFS said “several other states with Fig and Olive restaurants are reporting Salmonella cases.” According to its website, Fig & Olive operates several restaurants in NewYork City, one in Westchester NY, two in California, one in Chicago and one in Washington DC. Earlier this week, health officials in New York City, Illinois and Newport Beach, California told Food Poisoning Bulletin that no illnesses had been reported in association with Fig & Olive restaurants in those locations.
Salmonella bacteria live in the intestines of animals and cause infection when food contaminated with microscopic amounts of fecal matter is ingested. The contamination can occur in the growing fields, during slaughter or if an infected food handler shows up for work. People with Salmonella infections can still spread disease up to three days after symptoms resolve.
Symptoms of a Salmonella infection include fever, abdominal cramps, vomiting and diarrhea that can be bloody. Typically, about 20 percent of cases require hospitalization. Some of those will develop a blood infection that can be life-threatening. Long term consequences of a Salmonella infection include reactive arthritis, irritable bowel syndrome, heart disease, high blood pressure, and immunological problems.
Restaurants are the most common setting for food poisoning outbreaks. This month, in Minnesota, 10 cases of Salmonella poisoning were linked to contaminated cucumbers served at Red Lobster restaurants. And 64 cases of salmonellosis were linked to tainted tomatoes served at Chipotle.