April 18, 2024

Salmonella Outbreak at Boston Back Bay Sandwich and Cafe Med

Two Boston restaurants have had their permits to operate temporarily suspended after an apparent Salmonella outbreak. Ana Karina Vivas, Media Relations Manager at the Boston Public Health Commission, told Food Poisoning Bulletin that there are eight confirmed cases of Salmonella and no known hospitalizations. Four of the patients ate at Cafe Med, two at Back Bay Sandwich, and two people ate at both facilities. She said that they are working on testing employees to identify the source of the outbreak.


Boston public health officials found violations in the way those facilities prepare, handle, and hold food. Back Bay Sandwich at 31 Saint James Avenue had its permit pulled on May 17 and May 18, 2017 for “multiple risk factors.” And Cafe Med, also at 31 Saint James Avenue was temporarily closed on May 18, 2017.

The Boston Inspectional Services Department issued this statement: “ISD and the Boston Public Health Commission are working with Cafe Med and Backbay [sic] Sandwich to ensure compliance of all applicable codes. This is an ongoing investigation into the cause of the illness and the health permits for both establishments will be suspended until further notice.”

At Back Bay Sandwich, some of the violations included employees wrapping products in waxed paper and plastic before the food is cooled to 41°F or below. Whole turkey breast was at 50°F, sliced roast beef at 56°F, mayonnaise at 55°F, and sliced turkey at 52°F. The danger zone for the risk of bacterial growth is between 40°F and 140°F. Cold holding was also an issue. The salad unit was at 57°F, and cheeses were held at 55°F.

In addition, employees were multitasking while wearing disposable gloves. They were touching ready to eat food and non food contacts without removing their gloves and properly washing their hands. There was evidence of rodent activity and droppings in the basement storage. The report also states that “employees are not adequately trained in food safety and sanitation.”

At Cafe Med, foods were held at unsafe temperatures. The cheese turnovers were at 117°F, chicken at 88°F, and spanakopitas at 87°F. Foods that should be held at temperatures below 40°F were too warm. Feta cheese was at 74°F for about 3 hours, raw chicken was at 48°F, and ground beef was at 62°F for an “unknown time.”  Raw waste was backing up into prep sinks and refrigerators were dirty.

Also, raw eggs and raw chicken were stored above and with ready to eat items. Packaged spinach and raw chicken were stored in “green liquid.” Raw ground beef stored on the sandwich unit next to ready to eat products. The inspector also found that multiple food items were missing proper covers and wrapping. And food handlers were multitasking wearing glove and not properly washing their hands. Two hand wash sinks were blocked with equipment and paper towels were missing from hand wash areas.

Salmonella outbreaks in the past have been linked to improperly cooked food, food held at dangerous temperatures, and cross-contamination. The symptoms of a Salmonella infection include nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, and diarrhea. Symptoms usually begin a few hours to a few days after exposure to the bacteria. If you ate at those restaurants and have been experiencing these symptoms, see your doctor.

Pritzker Hageman law firm helps people sickened by contaminated food get answers, compensation and justice. Our attorneys have represented patients and families of children in personal injury and wrongful death lawsuits against food manufacturers, restaurants, retailers, schools, and others. Attorney Fred Pritzker recently won a $7.5 million judgment on behalf of a young client who was sickened with a foodborne illness.

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