Quiznos Salmonella Came from Raw TomatoesNov 30, 2007 | Parker Waichman LLP
Salmonella at a Quiznos sandwich shop in Rochester, Minnesota that sickened 20 people has been traced to raw tomatoes served at the restaurant. Larry Edmonson, an epidemiologist with Olmsted County Public Health, said studies showed that tomatoes delivered to the store were contaminated with Salmonella bacteria before they even got to the Quiznos restaurant.
Salmonella bacteria cause diarrhea, abdominal cramps, and fever within 72 hours of exposure. Children, the elderly or people with weakened immune systems are especially vulnerable to complications from Salmonella poisoning. In rare cases, extreme instances of Salmonella poisoning can lead to a disease called Reiter's Syndrome, which is associated with chronic arthritis. According to the Centers for Disease Control, Salmonella bacteria sicken 40,000 people every year. Although the true number could be much higher, because it is estimated that for every case of Salmonella poisoning reported, two others are unreported.
Minnesota health officials first traced the October Salmonella outbreak to the Quiznos Restaurant at 3499 22nd Avenue NW in Rochester. However, it took time to determine if the Salmonella outbreak originated with contaminated food, or if a worker spread the illness from an outside source. Because three sickened workers fell ill around the same time that Quiznos customers were stricken with Salmonella poisoning, early on investigators suspected that the outbreak originated with contaminated foods.
The Quiznos Restaurant was closed the day after the Salmonella outbreak was detected, but reopened soon after. Representatives for Quiznos said that the closure allowed for the removal and replacement of food supplies, and allowed the restaurant to bring in new staff. Managers also said that the store had been scrubbed and sanitized, and that they got the go ahead from health investigators to reopen.
Restaurant outbreaks of Salmonella poisoning are not rare. This summer over 700 people in the Chicago area became ill from Salmonella after they ate at the Pars Cove Restaurant food booth at the Taste of Chicago Food Festival. Raw tomatoes are also a common source of food poisoning. The CDC estimates that Salmonella from raw tomatoes has sickened as many as 79,000 people in 12 multistate Salmonella outbreaks since 1990. In most cases it is difficult to pinpoint the source of such contamination. However, the CDC has theorized that most bacterial contamination of tomatoes occurs early in the distribution chain, either at farms or packing facilities, rather than at the restaurants themselves.
This year, several Salmonella outbreaks have been traced to many other tainted foods. Earlier in the summer, Salmonella-laced Veggie Booty Snack Mix sickened more than 100 people around the country. And in February, Salmonella in ConAgra's Great Value and Peter Pan Peanut Butter made more than 600 people ill. Just last month, it was learned that another ConAgra product was behind a Salmonella outbreak. The company recalled its Banquet and store brand pot pies on October 11, and the tainted pot pies have been linked to more than 270 cases of Salmonella poisoning nationwide.