The Salmonella Enteritidis outbreaks at Fig & Olive restaurants in Washington D.C. and Los Angeles, California remain a mystery. At least 174 people have been sickened after eating at those restaurants, and more cases are being investigated. We don’t know what caused the outbreak, if the outbreaks at both restaurants are caused by the same serotype or genetic strain of Salmonella, or if other restaurants that are part of the Fig & Olive chain are involved.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has taken over the investigation, even though they have not released a report on the outbreak. The Washington D.C. Department of Health has taken environmental and food samples from the Fig & Olive restaurant in that city, and the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health is assisting in the investigation of the outbreak in California. No new updates have been issued by the Washington DOH since mid-September, and Los Angeles has not released a report.
Forty-five food samples and fifteen environmental samples were taken from the Washington D.C. location. All have tested negative for the pathogenic bacteria. Ten food samples are still pending for that location as of late September.
Those sickened in California ate at the restaurant on Melrose Place between September 6 and 11, 2015. Those sickened in the Washington, D.C. restaurant ate there over the Labor Day weekend in early September. The outbreak on the East Coast includes patients who live in Maryland, Pennsylvania, Virginia, Illinois, and Alabama.
The Fig & Olive chain also has restaurants in New York City, Scarsdale, New York, Newport Beach, California, and in Chicago, Illinois. Some people who ate at the New York City location may be ill according to other news reports, but officials in New York City, Chicago, and Newport Beach told Food Poisoning Bulletin that no Salmonella cases associated with the restaurant have been reported in those locations.
The Fig & Olive restaurant in Washington D.C. was closed for six days for cleaning, disposal of food, and staff education. Two items were removed from the menu: truffle fries and mushroom croquettes. The truffle oil is made by chefs at the restaurants. Officials have not mentioned any other foods, and have not referred to any other possible clues in this outbreak.
At the California location, the restaurant was closed for a few days. Some symptomatic food handlers were asked to submit stool specimens for lab analysis. The latest inspection report for that restaurant, conducted on July 22, 2015, reveals only one minor violation for lack of adequate hand washing facilities.
The symptoms of Salmonella food poisoning include nausea, fever, chills, abdominal cramps, muscle aches, headache, vomiting, and diarrhea that may be bloody. People usually become ill six hours to three days after exposure to the bacteria. The foods most commonly associated with Salmonella outbreaks include chicken, fresh produce such as tomatoes and cucumbers, and bean sprouts.
The long term consequences of a Salmonella infection can be serious. Some people can develop Reiter’s Syndrome, which causes eye irritation and reactive arthritis. Others can develop irritable bowel syndrome, heart disease, or high blood pressure. If you ate at a Fig & Olive restaurant and have experienced these symptoms, see your doctor. It’s important for your health that this illness is noted on your medical chart.