Investigators conducted interviews with 27 Muskegon County and five Ottawa County residents who were sickened with salmonella and found the contamination occurred at Pints and Quarts Pub and Grill or C.F. Prime Chophouse & Wine Bar. The two establishments share the same kitchen.
Salmonella is a food-borne illness acquired from contaminated eggs, raw poultry, and unpasteurized milk and cheese products. It’s also found in the feces of some animals.
Based on the victims’ symptoms, investigators determined that they became ill between Oct. 30 and Nov. 2. Those who became ill all consumed meals with chicken and/or lettuce.
A laboratory confirmed that the recent illnesses were caused by salmonella enteritidis. This is most often associated with eggs or poultry.
Ken Kraus, director of Public Health-Muskegon County, said owners and staff at the restaurants have been cooperated in the investigation.
Although investigators have reviewed food-handling processes, gathered food histories and conducted more than 100 interviews with food service workers, restaurant patrons and others, the cause of the contamination remains unfound.
“We’re not getting any information that would tell us how contaminated produce got on those lettuces,” he said.
Kraus said they think contamination likely occurred on the “pantry table” where meals are made and prepared. This is the only place all the contaminated foods came together.
Investigators have identified a few procedures that could be “tightened up,” such as developing easier operating procedures and building in quality monitoring standard operating procedures to ensure consistency among all staff, Kraus said.
Restaurant spokeswoman Mary Ann Sabo said the owners weren’t doing interviews at this time, but provided an e-mail statement from Andy Harris, owner and manager of Pints and Quarts Pub and Grill and C.F. Prime Chophouse.
In the statement, Harris said they’ve fully cooperated with the health department with the ongoing investigation, and staff engages in regular and ongoing training to ensure kitchen staff and servers understand and practice proper food handling procedures.
Harris said the establishments have consistently received high marks for food quality, safety and service.
“Our restaurants are committed to providing the highest quality products and service,” the statement reads. “…We are a family-owned business with deep roots in the Muskegon community and a passion for excellence.”
Symptoms of salmonella include fever, diarrhea and abdominal cramps. The illness lasts between four and seven days, with most people able to recover without medical treatment.
The chance of a salmonella infection can be reduced by thoroughly cooking poultry, ground beef and eggs, not eating or drinking foods containing raw eggs or unpasteurized milk, and washing hands, kitchen surfaces and utensils with soap and water immediately.