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Marler Blog Providing Commentary on Food Poisoning Outbreaks & Litigation

A Truly Nationwide Salmonella Outbreak

Makes you look at salsa a bit differently.

In 2002 a well-documented outbreak of Salmonella enteriditis infections occurred at the Wyndham Anatole Hotel in Dallas, Texas during March and April of 2002.  According to Robert Tauxe of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, the Wyndham Salmonella outbreak was geographically the largest in history and the first outbreak to involve the residents of all 50 states.

The outbreak was the subject of a wide-ranging eight-week long investigation by the Texas Department of Health (“TDH”). The City of Dallas Department of Environmental Health Services, the Dallas County Health and Human Services Department, and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control were also involved in the outbreak investigation.  At least 50 people were confirmed to have Salmonella infections linked to their having consumed food at the Wyndham, while another 650 such people from all 50 states reported having symptoms consistent with this illness.

Health department investigators concluded that a hotel food-service worker who had a Salmonella infection contaminated food during the preparation process.  The victims of the outbreak then were infected by consuming the contaminated food.  According to TDH lead epidemiologist, Kathleen Shupe-Ricksecker, “the food most commonly consumed by those who tested positive for salmonellosis was salsa, which was made in the hotel.” The infected worker on a daily basis prepared the salsa.

In a letter to the Vice President and General Manager of the Wyndham Hotel, Marc L. Messina, Margie Earl, the Manager of the Food Protection and Education Program for the City of Dallas, wrote that, of one group of 2,200 people who attended a conference at the hotel, 278 reported diarrhea and vomiting consistent with salmonellosis.  These people were sick, on average, for six days.  This represents but one group at the hotel during the relevant time period.  During March and April, 84 groups had meetings or conventions at the hotel, which served more than 183,000 catered meals.

Finally, in an environmental health inspection conducted on the same date that Margie Earl wrote to Marc Messina, the banquet kitchen was found to have insufficient hygienic practices and that there were no soap or paper towels at all hand sinks.  A Notice of Violation was then issued.