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Salmonella outbreak in Colorado growing; 2 restaurants closed

County officials say no fines planned for restaurants because lost sales are punishment enough

A Colorado burrito restaurant, forced to close after catering two community college events where some attendees were sickened with Salmonella poisoning, did poorly in health inspections during the past three years.

As of Thursday there were 10 people confirmed with Salmonella infections linked to the restaurant, according to the Weld County Department of Public Health and Environment. One child had been admitted to a local hospital.

Carrie Hanley, Weld County’s director of community health services, Thursday warned residents that this “has the potential to be a large outbreak.” More cases are likely to be confirmed soon.

Five people became infected at two community college events catered by the Burrito Delight restaurant at 1230 Denver Ave. in Fort Lupton, CO. Three cases are attributed directly from that location.

The Burrito Delight restaurant racked up 22 red violations during five inspections since late 2015. Red violations are those “more likely than other violations to contribute to food contamination or illness.”

In its last regular inspection, Weld County public health rated both the Burrito Delight in Fort Lupton and its sister location in Dacono, CO, as “marginal.” At that time, neither location was closed down. Instead, the restaurant was provided with the opportunity to correct the red violations before undergoing re-inspection.

Debra Adamson, Weld County’s director of environmental health services, said Burrito Delight’s Fort Lupton restaurant was found with numerous violations when inspected Thursday. These included a dead mouse on a sticky trap behind a reach-in cooler, food held at improper temperatures, and employees failing to wash their hands and drinking beverages next to unprepared food.

Weld County closed both Burrito Delight locations, which are north of Denver, pending the outcome of the outbreak investigation. County officials do not plan to impose any fines or penalties in exchange for the restaurant’s continued cooperation.

“The loss of business is penalty enough,” Adamson told local media.

The two catered events at Aims Community College linked to the Salmonella infections were on Feb. 9 and 13. Burrito Delight catered both, serving 70 on Feb. 9 and about 400 on Feb. 13. At least eight people were confirmed sick. The restaurant charged the college $3,800 for both catering jobs. An Aims spokesman said the college only used Burrito Delight once before, in October 2017. The college did not check the restaurant’s inspection record but may make such a step mandatory in the future.

“Salmonella is a bacteria that causes symptoms like diarrhea, upset stomach, fever, and occasionally vomiting,” said Mark E. Wallace,executive director of the Weld County Health Department. “Symptoms typically last 4 to 7 days, and most people recover on their own. Anyone who suspects they became ill should contact their health care provider.”

Wallace said for some people, diarrhea may become so severe that they require hospitalization. Symptoms typically appear 6-72 hours after eating contaminated food and will usually last for 4 to 7 days without treatment. However, in severe cases, the symptoms may last longer.

The critical red violations that earned the Fort Lupton Burrito Delight it’s most recent “Marginal” rating included:

  • Flies in the kitchen at the time of inspection with fly strips fill entirely without being replaced.
  • No content labels were attached to spray bottles containing chemicals.
  • The cleaner for food contact surfaces used was a bleach with fragrance, which leaves a toxic residue.
  • Hand soaps were not available.
  • Milk, orange juice, and sour cream stored in soda cooler that as holding at 47 to 48 degrees, far warmer than the 41 degrees or colder that is required.
  • Roasted pepper salsa with a temperature of 110 degrees was cooling in a mixture of water and ice in a prep sink. A half hour later, it was at 100 degrees. Potentially hazardous foods require rapidly cooling to 41 degrees or less with six hours.
  • Employees did not wash their hands before donning single-use gloves.

Before Burrito Delight will be allowed to re-open in either location, Weld County’s investigation must be completed and the restaurants must have safe food handlers either by re-training existing personnel or hiring new staff, the facilities must be deep-cleaned;  the food supply must be new or sanitized, and be in substantial compliance when re-inspected.

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