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2 Camplyobacter cases linked to restaurant; foie gras suspected

A restaurant in the Seattle suburb of Kirkland, WA, has been confirmed as the source of two recent Camplyobacter infections, causing health officials to warn the public about the dangers of eating foie gras.

Public health officials investigated an outbreak infecting “a single meal party” at Café Juanita, according to a notice posted by Seattle & King County Public Health.

“On July 24th, Public Health learned about two ill persons from a single meal party during an interview with an ill person diagnosed with Campylobacter,” according to the notice. The department was not able to confirm the Campylobacter information about the second infected person until Aug. 16.

Department officials reported the infected people shared multiple food items, including foie gras — made from the livers of ducks or geese that have been fattened, usually by force feeding with tubes.

“Foie gras has been linked to other Campylobacter outbreaks in the past, particularly when eaten raw or undercooked,” public health officials reported.

On Aug. 17 health officials inspected the restaurant. They found employees were cooking foie gras to the correct temperature at that time. However, the inspectors did not observe the employees checking the cooking temperature with a thermometer.

Investigators said the restaurant worked cooperatively with officials who instruction staff there to use a food thermometer to ensure that all foods are reaching the correct temperatures to kill harmful bacteria.

Health investigators are still working to confirm whether the foie gras or another item the two sick people ate was the culprit.

Campylobacter bacteria causes an infection of the intestines called campylobacteriosis.

“Most cases of campylobacteriosis are associated with consumption of undercooked meat, especially poultry, or ready-to-eat foods that have been contaminated with juices from raw meat,” according to the public notice. “Although the illness typically lasts about a week, in persons with compromised immune systems, Campylobacter occasionally spreads to the bloodstream and causes a serious life-threatening infection.

“Most people will get diarrhea, stomach cramps, and fever within 1 to 10 days after swallowing the bacteria… The diarrhea may be bloody and can be accompanied by nausea and vomiting.”

For more information about Campylobacteriosis consumers can visit King County Public Health’s Campylobacter Facts page.

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