May 27, 2024

Deadly Salmonella Food Poisoning Outbreak at La California Restaurant in Aurora, Colorado in November 2017 Killed One, Sickened at Least 13

KDVR-TV Channel 31 in Denver, Colorado is reporting that a Salmonella outbreak at La California restaurant at 1685 Peoria Street in Aurora, Colorado sickened at least 13 people and killed one person. That outbreak was not reported to the public, and there is still no notice about the illnesses on the Tri County Health Department Website. Government officials confirmed the outbreak to the news channel.

Salmonella Outbreak La California

Those sickened apparently ate at the restaurant from November 4 to November 26, 2017. Twenty-five of those sickened ate there from November 10 to November 14, 2017.

Thirty-three people were allegedly sickened, but 13 illnesses were confirmed as  Salmonella infections.  We don’t know if any of these patients were hospitalized. Lab tests conducted on food taken from La California allegedly show that the family combo meal is suspected, but public health investigators could not find a specific food that was deemed responsible for the illnesses.

While the health department has not notified the public, restaurant inspection reports at the Tri County web site possibly tell the story of this outbreak. Working backward from November 27, 2017, there were six inspections of La California.

On November 27, 2017, no violations were observed. But on December 6, there were five critical violations that could have posed a foodborne illness risk. They included a container of raw chicken stored on top of a box of raw shelled eggs, and a box of eggs that was stored on a box of tortillas in the fridge. A cook line employee cracked raw shelled eggs, but did not wash their hands or change gloves before handling ready-to-eat products.  Three large containers of refried beans were at 50°F, above the recommended temperature of 40°F, after cooling overnight. A large pot of cooked tomatillos was 47°F after cooling overnight, and a pot of salsa a pot of basole, and a large pot of beef soup were too warm after cooling overnight in the fridge. In addition, carnitas were held at 111° to 127°F at the steam table, which is below the safe temperature of 140°F. And hot water only reached 95°F at the cook line hand sink; the minimum temperature is 100°F.

On December 8, 2017, a follow up inspection found two critical violations. The first was an employee rinsing a food probe thermometer in the hand sink on the cook line. And cooked, ready-to-eat carnitas were measured between 124°F and 132°F on the hot holding table. Cooked rice was measured at 127°F.

The next follow-up inspection, on December 15, 2017, found that paper towels were not available at the hand sink by the food preparation sink. And on December 19, 2017, a red plastic bucket was observed in the basin of the hand washing sink on the cook line. Finally, no violations were observed during the inspection on December 26, 2017.

Some of those violations, such as not keeping raw chicken separate from ready to eat foods, and holding foods at the wrong temperature, can create conditions that allow bacteria to grow. And foods held at the danger zone of 40°F to 140°F are susceptible to bacterial growth.

Public health officials have not commented on this outbreak and have not posted any information online. While most people recover completely from a Salmonella infection, some may have life-long complications, including reactive arthritis, high blood pressure, and irritable bowel syndrome.

Pritzker Hageman, America’s food safety law firm, successfully represents people harmed by adulterated food products in outbreaks throughout the United States. Its lawyers have won hundreds of millions of dollars for survivors of foodborne illness, and families of those killed by food poisoning in wrongful death cases. The firm recently won the largest verdict in American history for a person harmed by E. coli and hemolytic uremic syndrome. The firm also publishes Food Poisoning Bulletin, a respected source for food safety news and information. Pritzker Hageman lawyers are regularly interviewed by major news outlets including CNN, the New York Times, and the Wall Street Journal.

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