E. coli Linked to Another RestaurantOct 31, 2008 | Parker Waichman LLP
The Johnathan’s Family Restaurant in Burlington, Ontario is the source of two confirmed cases of E. coli. Three other possible cases have been reported in the Canada's Halton Region. The links to Johnathan’s were confirmed after it was found that dining at the restaurant was the common element in four cases, said Mary Anne Carson, director of Halton Region Health Protection Services. A fifth person was still being interviewed, she said.
Johnathan's "voluntarily closed" after being contacted by the health department, Carson said, adding that it will remain closed until the inspection is completed. Restaurant owner Greg Tasoulis said he had no option, "A health department representative came and said ‘I want you to close the restaurant down,'" saying that the closure has put 30 employees out of work. "How do they know it doesn't come from the lettuce I got from our supplier," Tasoulis argued. "What if it's not us? The cost is tremendous to us ... over 5,000 people come through here in a week," said Tasoulis.
"It's part of our investigation to take a look at a very comprehensive history of what they consumed" at the restaurant, Carson pointed out. To that end, two public health inspectors were dispatched to inspect the restaurant, collecting food samples and a menu so they could determine what those sickened may have eaten, Carson said.
Despite Tasoulis’ hopes that a supplier is to blame, he admitted that an inspector told him there was a problem with the pizza refrigerator’s temperature and that thermometers were absent in other refrigerators. Another issue concerned the “state of cleanliness” in drawers and the use of old cans and plastic pails.
Meanwhile, the Niagara health department continues to investigate eight other confirmed cases of E. coli contamination, as well as another "probable" case. Also, three other confirmed cases of E. coli poisoning have been connected to M.T. Bellies Tap and Grillhouse in Welland. Food service has been suspended there. And, three other confirmed cases of E. coli have been linked to the Little Red Rooster restaurant in Niagara-on-the-Lake. These outbreaks follow another in North Bay, Ontario that has sickened at least 229 people, including 44 lab-confirmed cases. In that outbreak, all of the confirmed cases are linked to a single Harvey's restaurant in North Bay; however, those sickened span nine Ontario health regions as well as Quebec and British Columbia. The numbers of those falling ill continues to rise, in part, due to secondary cases in which bacteria is passed through improper hand washing, said officials. One 15-year-old girl remains hospitalized in serious condition and at least one class action suit has emerged.
E. coli are a group of bacteria found in animal intestines and feces. Some strains are necessary for digestion, while others can be deadly, such as the O157:H7 strain that is generally found to be the culprit in E. coli-related food-borne illness outbreaks. O157:H7 is among those E. coli that may cause serious disease—such as fatal blood poisoning, cystitis, and deadly septicemia—and are in a group called Verocytotoxigenic E. coli (VTEC) that are linked to food poisoning. Left untreated, E. coli toxicity can result in kidney damage and failure and death.