Another foodborne illness outbreak has closed another Seattle restaurant. This time around it’s the Toulouse Petit Kitchen & Lounge in the city’s Queen Anne neighborhood. The closure notice from Public Health – Seattle & King County is brief and slim on details. As of Friday health officials couldn’t even say whether the sick people are infected with Salmonella, E. coli or something else. “Six out of seven people from the same party ate at the restaurant on Sept. 10 and subsequently became ill with gastrointestinal symptoms — cramping, vomiting and diarrhea, fever, and headache — between Sept. 12 and Sept. 16,” according to the notice on the health department’s website. “The symptoms and timing of illness onset are consistent with a bacterial infection, such as Salmonellosis or Shiga Toxin-producing E. coli.” Several broadcast and print media outlets in the Seattle area reported the sick people had eaten foods at the restaurant that increase the risk of foodborne illness, including raw beef and raw egg. Restaurant score: 12 of 13 inspections ‘unsatisfactory’ From Nov. 16, 2009, through Jan. 26 this year inspectors conducted 13 “Routine Inspection/Field Review” visits to Toulouse Petit. The restaurant earned one satisfactory rating and 12 unsatisfactory ratings during that period, according to Public Health – King County & Seattle records. Ten of the unsatisfactory ratings included critical violations involving improper cooling procedures and failing to hold food at temperatures cold enough to prevent pathogen growth. Six of the unsatisfactory ratings included critical violations involving hand-washing and bare-hand contact with ready-to-eat foods. The critical violations appear in red print in the online reports. “Red critical violations are those violations with the highest risk of causing food borne disease. One red critical violation equals an unsatisfactory inspection. Environmental Health Specialists work with operators to make sure that red critical violations are corrected before they leave the establishment,” according to the public health department’s website. With the closure of the restaurant Wednesday, the health department reported the following problems:
- Potentially hazardous foods at unsafe temperatures;
- Improper cooling of potentially hazardous food;
- Inadequate facilities to control temperature of potentially hazardous food, cold holding;
- Foods not protected from cross contamination; and
- Imminent health hazard — investigation of possible foodborne illness outbreak.
The investigation of Toulouse Petit marks the third time in two weeks that a Seattle restaurant has been in the spotlight for possible food poisoning. The Seattle location for the Matador restaurant chain was temporarily closed as part of an investigation into an E. coli outbreak that has sickened at least 10 people. Health officials are also looking into two E. coli infections from a different strain of the pathogen among patrons of Memo’s Mexican Food restaurant, reported last week. (To sign up for a free subscription to Food Safety News, click here.)