Salmonella Outbreak at the Tavern

Updated: July 31, 2008 05:04 PM EDT


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The owner of the Tavern Restaurant on Emmet Street in Charlottesville has confirmed that his kitchen is at the center of a health department investigation into why at least a dozen people have gotten sick from salmonella poisoning.

The restaurant is no stranger to critical health code violations. The dozen people that we know have gotten sick include seven confirmed cases and five others that meet the case standards for salmonella. Most are said to be University of Virginia students who, we are told, ate eggs served at The Tavern.

The health department first started looking into the possibility of food poisoning at The Tavern late last week, though inspectors will not officially confirm the specific location of the outbreak. "The investigation is still underway and when we get that report written up we'll be happy to talk to you more about it," said Elizabeth Davies with the Thomas Jefferson Health District.

The restaurant's owner says that he voluntarily shut down last Friday to re-educate his employees about food safety. "At this time we do not believe that there is any more risk to the public," Davies said.

Investigators are staying tight-lipped about the potential source of the contamination. Davies said, "Again, that's not something I would like to comment on." But a UVA student who is among those diagnosed with salmonella says the common link between cases could be eggs.

Health inspection records show a long history of violations at The Tavern, including four "critical" violations in an inspection last week.  Some are repeat offenses, such as storing raw hamburger over prepared, ready to eat food.

Inspectors also noted that employees did not wash their hands after taking breaks, that food, including eggs, was stored at improper temperatures, and that employees didn't sanitize dirty pans before using them again. The Tavern's owner says he is committed to making sure these violations don't happen again. Health inspectors will be back at the restaurant every week for the immediate future.

Reported by Adam Rhew



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