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Texas IHOP Tainted with Salmonella for Third Time in Three Months

Sep 25, 2008 | Parker Waichman LLP
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The City Health Department in Amarillo, Texas, is investigating 26 cases of salmonella poisoning, with the vast majority linked to an IHOP there.  Twenty of the 26 cases are confirmed linked to the restaurant, which voluntarily shut down last week for the third time in three months.

The IHOP will remain closed until the Health Department completes its inspection, which is underway.  The restaurant is undergoing tests, including taking lab samples at the restaurant; employees and those who fell ill are also being interviewed.  "It is a mystery and we're not sure what the cause of it is; we're determined to find out why this is happening again, and the restaurant will stay closed until we're comfortable with that answer, the important thing is that the restaurant is safe to the public," said Vicky Covey from the City of Amarillo.  This is the third incident in approximately three months that has caused this particular IHOP to shut down because of salmonella contamination.  "Restaurant management and the departments are in agreement that the decision to reopen will not happen until the investigation is complete, test results received, and corrections are complete," said city Environmental Health Director Deree Duke and Public Health Director Matt Richardson in a joint email. "The goal is not to reopen, but to protect the public."

The IHOP had closed for 24 hours on June 15 and then again for all or part of the nine day period from June 23 to July 1 while workers cleaned and investigated a variety of illnesses.  Today is the ninth day the IHOP has remained closed in this third incident.  In all, dozens have suffered salmonella poisoning on a variety of occasions as a result of this IHOP restaurant.

In the meantime, city health officials are testing restaurant employees for salmonella, but are not releasing information on the test results.  "The city is receiving test results on workers at IHOP and when notifications have been made, the city will release the total number, but cannot release any specific information about any person including workers," read an email from city health officials.  In the June outbreaks, a total of 11 workers tested positive for the salmonella toxin.

Salmonella can occur when food is improperly stored or handled.  Salmonella poisoning can also occur when food preparers do not wash their hands or do not sanitize implements involved in meat storage.  People infected with the salmonella bacteria develop salmonellosis and suffer from diarrhea, fever, and abdominal cramps within 12 to 72 hours of infection.  Laboratory testing is required to determine the presence of salmonella; additional testing can determine the specific type and which antibiotics are needed.  Generally, the illness lasts about one week and most people recover without treatment; however, in some cases, diarrhea may be so severe that hospitalization is required.  When this happens, the salmonella infection may have spread from the intestines to the blood stream and to other body sites.  Severe cases can result in death if not treated.

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