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Salmonella Outbreak in Washington Attributed to Local Catering Business

AUG 18, 2016 | FATIA KASUMU
A Salmonella outbreak in Washington state last month was confirmed to have stemmed from a Pierce county caterer, Mr. Rick's catering. According to Food Safety News (FSN), "operating as Mr. Rick’s Catering, Rick Stevenson’s food is the suspected vehicle in a Salmonella outbreak that could impact 175 people in multiple counties." The press release indicated that the Tacoma-Pierce County Health Department notified the catering company to discontinue operation in 2012 and most recently, issued a $710 fine for operating without a permit. The department did not release the violations of Mr. Rick's Catering. “Public health focuses on keeping people safe in places where they live, learn, work and play,” said Jefferson Ketchel, environmental health director for the Snohomish Health District. “Public health partners around the region work together to advance food safety and give residents information they need to make informed decisions when eating out.”

The county health department is urging caterers and the public to ensure proper food safety measures are met before hiring a vendor. “Good food should taste good, but it should also be safe for you to eat,” said Rachel Knight, food safety program manager at Tacoma-Pierce County Health Department. “Local caterers with the appropriate permit to prepare and serve food at events are responsible for following food safety rules—and protecting the public’s health.”

The food safety rules and regulations in Washington state include compliance with food law according to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) such as:
  • Food prepared in a private home may not be used or offered for human consumption in a food establishment.
  • Food employees experiencing persistent sneezing, coughing, or a runny nose that causes discharges from the eyes, nose, or mouth may not work with exposed FOOD; clean EQUIPMENT, UTENSILS, and LINENS; or unwrapped SINGLE-SERVICE or SINGLE-USE ARTICLES.
  • Fruits and vegetables that are cooked for hot holding must be cooked to a temperature of 135°F (57°C).

About Salmonella

Salmonella bacteria can cause diarrhea, fever, and abdominal cramping, 12 to 72 hours after infection, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). There are many different types of Salmonella bacteria but the most common types in the United States are Salmonella serotype Typhimurium and Salmonella serotype Enteritidis. To distinguish Salmonella from other illnesses that may cause diarrhea and fever, a stool or blood sample must be taken and tested for the infection.

Prevention and Treatment

There is no vaccine for Salmonella. Since food and animal origin products may be contaminated with the bacteria, special precaution must be considered. According to the CDC, "raw eggs may be unrecognized in some foods, such as homemade Hollandaise sauce, Caesar and other homemade salad dressings, tiramisu, homemade ice cream, homemade mayonnaise, cookie dough, and frostings."

Additional quick prevention tips on avoiding Salmonella infection can be found on the CDC’s Salmonella Prevention webpage.
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