Tainted food suspected in outbreak

Fecal matter found on food at a Huron Township resort only strengthens health officials’ suspicions that norovirus is to blame for sickening dozens of people in recent weeks.
Tom Jackson
Sep 25, 2013
“Some of the lunch meat, the ham and the turkey, was contaminated with fecal bacteria,” said Bob England, Erie County’s environmental health director.

Essentially, where there’s fecal bacteria contamination, there is also the likelihood of the suspected virus that caused the illness.

England said it’s important to understand the health department cannot absolutely determine the cause of the sickness, but the evidence at hand allows them to draw the conclusion.

Dozens of people associated with Sawmill Creek Resort fell ill in recent weeks, and their symptoms — vomiting, nausea, stomach pains and diarrhea — led health officials to suspect norovirus was the cause.

The initial sicknesses befell people at the resort during a Sept. 10-13 health care convention, and the number of ill only grew as the days passed.    The final tally as of Tuesday was 79 ill, although the outbreak has apparently slowed.

“It hasn’t gone up too much over the weekend,” England said.

Tests on the resort’s food showed significant amounts of fecal bacteria contamination, England said, specifically on the ham and turkey, and lesser amounts on some cheese. Also, of the people who fell ill at the resort, nearly all of them ate salad. The health department sent several containers of lettuce to state health officials for testing, but for some reason the state didn’t analyze those samples, England said.

The food itself could not be tested for norovirus, also known as the “Norwalk virus,” but the bacteria shows the conditions are present for contamination, England said.

“The best inference you can draw is there was contamination that made its way into something,” he said. “I think we’re fairly conclusive in our results here. We’ve found a smoking gun.”

The health department also cannot prove how the food became contaminated.

“I can’t say for sure, but it may have been hand contamination,” England said, adding that this happens when someone uses the bathroom and does not wash his hands properly.

England said that while he believes the initial outbreak was connected with food contamination — at least two employees at the resort tested positive for norovirus — later cases of the virus may have come from sick people passing on the highly contagious ailment.

The outbreak emerged during a Creative Health Care Management convention that attracted about 370 people to Sawmill Creek.

England said he believes the contaminated food was served on the night of Sept. 10.

Greg Hill, owner of Sawmill Creek, said he hopes the health department identified the cause, but he also pointed out that food was not served on Sept. 10, because the conferees went out to eat. Boxed lunches with ham and turkey were offered Sept. 11, Hill said.

There have been no reports of illnesses in the last few days, Hill said, and his management team has been emphasizing cleanliness.

“We’ve been cleaning the heck out of this place,” Hill said. “I’ve had no cases here in the last four to five days.”

England also said the resort’s staff have gone to great lengths to clean the facility in the wake of the illnesses.

Craig Luzinski, chief operating officer of Creative Health Care Management, said people began getting sick at the conference on the morning of Sept. 12.

“I got sick on the way back,” said Luzinski, who flew back to his home near Denver.

He said the conference was a well-attended hit and he doesn’t know yet if his company will seek an adjustment on the bill from Sawmill Creek.

“I will say honestly right now we’re in the information collection phase,” he said.

Comments

DickTracey

Moderators have removed this comment because it contained Profane, obscene, sexual or derogatory language.

There you go again

That is funny as s$&t

From the Grave

How can they be sure that the food didn't get delivered with fecal matter on it? At least nobody went 6 feet under...

bobshumway92

So who pooped on the food?

44846GWP

OK, who crapped on the Turkey?

bobshumway92

I won't be going back there ever again. I don't want to eat no poop.

Tool Box

Same here! Employees not washing their hands after they take a dump??? Yeah, I won't be eating there anymore!!! That is freaking disgusting!!!

VOTENO

.

DickTracey

Moderators have removed this comment because it contained Profane, obscene, sexual or derogatory language.

LadyC

Yuk. Aren't they supposed to wear those plastic gloves when they handle food?

VOTENO

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Nor'easter

What is to say that this was not a case of one on the people attending the conference brought in the initial virus?

VOTENO

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Centauri

Maybe so.
http://blog.statefoodsafety.com/...

I once met a person who refused to shake anybody's hand. He told me to watch the people who use the stalls for number two and see how many do not wash their hands. I found out a large number did not wash their hands or they simply used only water (no soap). FYI.

worddrow811

This is the crap shoot we deal with whenever and wherever one eats in a public place. If you don't know who cooked the food, you don't know how clean they are so suck it up. They spit on food and blow their noses or anything else gross that they can think of to do.

deertracker

Agreed!

UK

Duh you people are so immature. So witty...NOT!

UK

And...figures it is Obamas fault somehow... Seriously why would you take this story and make it an opportunity to downgrade the president yet again. MATURITY I'm sure.

8ballinthesidepocket

Who said that? We all know it was Bush's fault!!

8ballinthesidepocket

Moderators have removed this comment because it contained Profane, obscene, sexual or derogatory language.

james4

This is usually traced back to bad management, The supervisor in charge or the Chef should have had the kitchen help using gloves as required by law. Common sense ...time for a refresher course in food safety!!!!

YoMamma

A new name for the Norwalk virus... the Sawmill Squirts!

Simple Enough II

+10

2cents

Anyone consider sabotage? Internal, external, disgruntled someone??

sandusky2012

someone ate some pooh?

PyrkinsPyrate

It would have answered a lot of peoples' questions if the story had specified whether it was human droppings or rodent droppings involved.

deertracker

Does that really matter!?????

Tool Box

It must make a difference to her, maybe she eats one but not the other.

deertracker

This is just awful. It really is a crap shoot every time you eat out. I usually order something that had to be handled with utensils and is served very hot. These fast food places are terrible too!

Peninsula Pundit

SIGNIFICANT amounts of fecal matter.
This doesn't sound like someone not washing their hands.
It sounds like someone crapped on their hands and then went to the meat cooler.
Disgusting!
Sawmill Creek has a PR nightmare on its' hands, as this has been covered by every television station from Toledo to Cleveland.
The joint may hold itself out as 'high-class', but if your workers don't share the sentiment by the way they're paid or worked, this sort of thing happens.

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