The number of sick people in an outbreak tied to a popular restaurant in Seattle has jumped from 17 to 32 people from multiple meal parties, according to the most recent report from the local health department.

“Public Health is investigating an outbreak of Shigellosis associated with Tamarind Tree Restaurant in Seattle,” Public Health Seattle & King County reported. “As of Feb. 8, 32 people reported becoming ill after eating food from the Tamarind Tree Restaurant. These 32 people ate at this restaurant Jan. 14-17, and started having symptoms Jan. 17-20. Symptoms reported include diarrhea, cramps, nausea, fever, chills, and vomiting.”

Environmental Health investigators visited the restaurant on Jan. 24. They observed improper food handling practices, including blocked access to handwashing facilities, improper storage of wiping cloths, risk of cross contamination, and lack of maintenance, cleaning, and sanitizing of food equipment and physical facilities. Investigators closed the restaurant. 

Environmental Health investigators did a routine inspection on Jan. 18. They observed several risk factors that could contribute to foodborne outbreaks, including bare hand contact with ready-to-eat foods.

The restaurant was required to complete a thorough cleaning and disinfection. On Feb. 7, Environmental Health investigators revisited the restaurant to confirm proper cleaning and disinfection, and the restaurant reopened that day.

Investigators provided education about preventing the spread of gastrointestinal illness — including proper handwashing and preventing bare hand contact with ready-to-eat foods. Investigators have also reviewed with restaurant management the requirement that people with a gastrointestinal illness who work in food handling should not work while ill, and those with diagnosed Shigella infections who work in food handling must be cleared by Public Health before returning to work to make sure they are no longer contagious.

Public Health has not identified any ill employees. Public Health worked with the restaurant to complete testing for all employees because some people infected with Shigella do not have symptoms and investigators observed several risk factors that could contribute to the spread of Shigella. At this time, no employees have tested positive for Shigella.

(To sign up for a free subscription to Food Safety News,click here)