A restaurant in North Reading, Massachusetts, has closed following 39 suspected incidents of salmonella it's believed to be responsible for.
The indefinite shutdown happened after several patrons complained about consuming possibly contaminated food served by the restaurant. The Massachusetts Department of Public Health is conducting an ongoing salmonella outbreak investigation at Kitty's Restaurant and Lounge.
The DPH received 39 complaints about the restaurant in early July, nine of which were confirmed to be cases of salmonella, and the rest suspected to be as such. The outbreak is believed to have occurred on June 23. According to the North Reading Board of Health, the restaurant's antipasto salad, plus its house salad dressing, are believed to be the culprit.
Kitty's Restaurant Salmonella Outbreak
Officials recommended that management close the restaurant for a full cleaning and sanitization after another suspected illness was linked to the restaurant in June 25, just days after the salmonella incident.
Initial investigation also showed that there were a number of food safety and sanitation concerns in the restaurant linked to unsanitary conditions. The North Reading Health Department also found cross contamination and time and temperature abuse. To make matters worse, the restaurant did not comply with the DPH's original order to have employees prohibited from working.
All the employees working at the time must be tested, and they require clearing from the DPH before they are permitted to return to work, as NBC Boston reports.
"We got a complaint, and then we got a couple of them and the Board of Health got involved. We addressed the problem. We closed down, did a thorough cleaning. And then we had a professional service do a cleaning," said Kitt's Restaurant owner Scott White, as WCVB reports.
"In the interest of protecting the public health due to the potential of a secondary outbreak, and in response to the establishment's failure to comply with the orders of the North Reading Health Department, on July 9 the establishment was ordered closed until further notice," said the DPH.
The department is also recommending those who may have taken home leftover antipasto salad or house salad dressing from Kitty's to throw them in the trash immediately. Anyone who possesses an unopened bottle of the salad dressing is encouraged to contact the DPH so it can be tested.
Salmonella causes about 1.2 million illnesses, 23,000 hospitalizations, and 450 deaths every year in the United States alone, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Most persons infected with it experience diarrhea, fever, and abdominal cramps 12 to 72 hours after infection. The illness usually lasts up to 7 days, and most people recover without treatment.