A Salmonella outbreak at the Washington, DC City Center Fig & Olive may have sickened as many as 160 people, according to the DC Department of Health (DOH). Ten cases have been confirmed and another 150 cases from five states are being investigated. Those states have not been named.
Health officials say anyone who ate at the restaurant and developed symptoms of a Salmonella infection including fever, abdominal cramps, vomiting and diarrhea that may have been bloody, should see a doctor and mention possible Salmonella exposure. A stool culture can confirm an infection and determine if it it part of the outbreak.
The restaurant reopened today after a six-day closure triggered by the outbreak. Health investigators say they were able to confirm through follow-up inspections that the restaurant had “removed all conditions that may have contributed to the Salmonella outbreak.” DOH plans increased surveillance of the restaurant to ensure it complies with food safety regulations.
“Over the past six days we have been working very closely with the Department of Forensic Science and persons who ate at the restaurant who may have been impacted by this outbreak to ensure a comprehensive assessment and solution that will sustain the safety of those living, working and visiting our nation’s capital,” said Dr. LaQuandra Nesbitt, Director of the District of Columbia Department of Health. “Fig and Olive has been very cooperative, responsive and transparent throughout this process and has complied with the directive issued from the department.”
Fig and Olive was allowed to reopen today because it met the following DOH requirements: It provided evidence/invoices of the clean-up and sanitization of the kitchen/premises; verified employee health training, which included signed forms; destroyed current food inventory; corrected all violations cited in recent inspections, provided a Standard Operating Procedure for food handling and preparation and implemented training program to reinforce good retail practices, according to the DOH.
DOH has not released information about the suspected food source, mentioned a food recall, link to another outbreak, or other establishments.
There are at least three other Salmonella outbreaks ongoing right now. One linked to tomatoes served at Chipotle restaurants in Minnesota has sickened 66 people. Another linked to pork products in the state of Washington has sickened 131 people. And a 31-state outbreak linked to cucumbers from Mexico has sickened 418. At least 91 people have been hospitalized, two have died. A recall for the cucumbers was issued September 4. A recall for the pork product was issued August 13.
Restaurants are the most common setting for food poisoning outbreaks. Food can be contaminated before it arrives and then spread to other foods through cross-contamination. Or, an ill food handler can spread disease.
Salmonella lives in the intestines of animals and causes infection when food contaminated with microscopic amounts of fecal matter is ingested. The contamination can happen 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.