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Sac County Report: Data 'Strongly Suggest' Ill Food Handlers at Mulvaney's Were Nexus of Norovirus Outbreak


Based on hundreds of interviews and "the isolation of GI Norovirus (rare strain) in at least one patron and two restaurant employees, strongly suggests that ill food handlers who prepared, served or plated food" at Mulvaney's "may have contaminated the food," says a Sacramento County Public Health Division obtained first by Cowtown Eats.

Among the highlights of the report:

  • Between Feb. 22 and Feb. 26, 2013, there were 138 reported cases of illnesses after eating at Mulvaney's B&L.
  • The most common symptoms were nausea (91% of cases), fatigue (83%), diarrhea (76%) and vomiting (74%).
  • Two separate employees of Mulvaney's tested positive, but investigators were unable to find an "index case," or the person who was the source of the infection.
  • Mulvaney's was very responsible and self reported this outbreak to Sacramento county authorities.

The outbreak was first reported by the Sacramento Bee in March.

The county has made recommendations to reduce the probability of future outbreaks. Those recommendations include:
  • Review of food handling techniques and sanitary measures such as diligent hand washing. Diligent hand washing with antibacterial soap and hot water is most effective against Norovirus.
  • Review of policies for ill food service workers returning to work and food handling. Ill employees are to be excluded from work until they have been symptom free for at least 48 hours.

Per the county report, "norovirus can be transmitted person-to-person by the fecal-oral route and spread through contaminated airborne droplets, food, water, environmental surfaces and fomites. It has been estimated that 50% of all norovirus outbreaks are linked to food-service workers."

Even after reading this report, I will eat at Mulvaney's again and hopefully, soon. In my estimation, this was a case of bad luck (likely a sick food worker causing the illness) and not an indictment of their sanitary conditions.

In addition, they did everything right after the fact. I've heard reports of them taking care of the diners who ate there and got sick, they self reported to the county instead of trying to hide the outbreak, and based on interviews at the time, the executive chef was genuinely mortified that people had gotten sick at his restaurant.

I'm a fan of the restaurant. I'm a fan of the owners and the great work they do in the community (such as at Plates Cafe). I'm not going to let this unfortunate incident detract from that.

I've reached out to the restaurant on Monday (Memorial Day) to see if they have any comment. If/when they get back to me, I'll update this post.

Read the report for yourself below.

County of Sacramento's Report on Mulvaney's Outbreak 5-22-2013


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