October 27, 2016

September 2015 E. coli Outbreak at Holy Land Restaurant in Minneapolis

E.-coli microscopeAn E. coli outbreak sickened seven people who ate food prepared at the Holy Land Deli in Minneapolis in late September and early October of 2015, according to a report from the Minnesota Department of Health (MDH).

During interviews with health officials, three people sickened by the same strain of E. coli O157:H7 said they had eaten Holy Land food before becoming ill. Symptoms of an E. coli infection include abdominal cramps and diarrhea that can be bloody.

On October 12, 2015, MDH sanitarians went to the restaurant at 2513 Central Ave, NE in Minneapolis to “evaluate food preparation and handling procedures, check for additional complaints, interview food workers, collect credit card receipts from September 24, and collect catering invoices from September 24-29,” according to the report.

The Hennepin County Public Health Department called patrons from receipts and invoices. Cases were defined as people who ate at Holy Land and developed E. coli O157:H7 or who ate at Holy Land and developed diarrhea that was either bloody or lasted at least three days.

Five cases were confirmed through stool cultures, two others were included in the case count. Of the seven people sickened, four ate food from the facility on September 24. Two of them attended separate catered lunch events, one dined in andordered take-out. The remaining culture-confirmed case ordered take-out on September 26.

All seven cases reported diarrhea and abdominal cramps. Four had bloody stools, two had fever, and one had vomiting. On average, onset of illness was three days after exposure and lasted six and half days. The shortest duration was 12 hours the longest was 10 days.

Five of the seven people sickened sought medical attention- two at the emergency room and three at an outpatient clinic. None of them was hospitalized.

A food source was not determined, but food histories revealed that six people ate gyros, six ate hummus, four ate rice, four ate cucumber sauce, four ate salad, three ate pita bread, three ate falafel and two ate samosas. Other foods eaten by those sickened include: chicken kebobs, grape leaves, lettuce, tomato, onion, tahini sauce, hot sauce, fries, and dessert.

Most of the restaurants employees were interviewed (67 of 87 of them.)  One employee reported diarrhea lasting one day in early October that may have been bloody.

Health officials noted that the kitchen was “well-organized, hand sinks were stocked, sanitizer was at appropriate levels, and employees were using gloves. No crosscontamination issues were observed by the sanitarian.”

Produce and meats are stored in separate coolers and prepped in different areas by designated employees.  Gyros cones are delivered to the restaurant raw and frozen then cooked in a vertical broiler. After the cooked meat is shaved off  of the cones with an electric knife, it is placed in the back compartment of a steam table. Correct holding temperatures were observed.

“The MDH did an excellent job identifying this restaurant-based outbreak.  So often, this type of outbreak is not investigated at all,” said Brendan Flaherty, a food safety attorney representing one of the people sickened. “But here those who have been sickened will be able to get fair compensation.”

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