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Kalamazoo Cracker Barrel Closes Due to Salmonella Outbreak and Gross Contamination.  This Has Nothing to do With Brad’s Wife.

Posted in Outbreaks & Recalls,Salmonella on December 4, 2018

Cracker Barrel is in the news again.  This time it has nothing to do with #justiceforBradsWife, though we are pretty sure she never got her job back.  No. This news comes out of Kalamazoo, Michigan, not Corydon, Indiana.  This news is also not likely to reach the viral internet fame as Brad’s plea for answers on why his wife was fired after 11 years of service.  On his birthday!  – Allegedly. Or his mothers (if you check what Snopes.com has to say). While important to their family, this news affects many families and should be just as big. There is a Kalamazoo Cracker Barrel Salmonella Outbreak.

A Kalamazoo Cracker Barrel restaurant located near I-94 and S. 9th St. announced that they are voluntarily closing their doors due to a salmonella outbreak investigation.  This was not a fast decision.  In fact, it was about 6 months in the making.

The Investigation Began in June 2018

The trouble for this Kalamazoo restaurant began in June of 2018 where reports of foodborne illness and health violations prompted a temporary closure.  The Kalamazoo County Health & Community Services Department along with the state counterpart, Michigan Department of Health and Human Services began investigating the food establishment in June. County Health & Community Services Department indicated that the establishment was voluntarily closing to begin facility renovations and has been working with them to ensure that all Michigan Food Law requirements were met before they reopen.  They remained closed over the Summer but recently re-opened. After re-opening, restaurant and employee protocols were closely monitored.

New Developments in Cracker Barrel Restaurant Closure November 2018

This temporary closure became permanent in late November.  After a Salmonella diagnosis linked to a restaurant patron prompted a test by state officials on Tuesday, November 27th, the closure decision became more permanent.  The Kalamazoo County Health & Community Services Department received a letter the next day.  Cracker Barrel Corporate indicated that the Kalamazoo location closure would be permanent.  According to County, this final voluntary closure was in response to environmental preliminary test results obtained by a private testing firm hired by Cracker Barrel’s corporate office.  These preliminary results indicated significant Salmonella contamination.  They presumably believed that the state testing would generate the same results. The state’s test results should be available some time next week.

Cracker Barrel Corporate Issues Statement November 2018

A spokesperson from Cracker Barrel said, “Cracker Barrel has been responsive and cooperative throughout the outbreak investigation.  We continue to work with Cracker Barrel and their employees to ensure there are no health risks.”  Essentially, to be sure that there are no other exposures at this location, they have decided to wave the white flag and throw in the towel.

The Cooperation Continues as Closure Finalizes

Throughout the process the Kalamazoo Cracker Barrel has worked closely with State and County partners. The Kalamazoo County Health & Community Services Department indicated that they are focused on protecting and improving health for all residents in their county.  “Kalamazoo [Heath & County Services] staff will continue to work with Cracker Barrel as they focus their efforts on closing the facility,” says Jim Rutherford, Health Officer with The Kalamazoo County Health & Community Services Department.

The closure, though voluntary, will entail more than just locking the door and vacating the building.  If the reality is as bad as they are making it out to be, this restaurant facility is grossly contaminated with Salmonella.  If Salmonella abatement is a thing, this is essentially what needs to be done.

As Cracker Barrel vacates their facility, Kalamazoo County Health & Community Services Department is offering oversight to ensure appropriate measures are taking place.  Such as:

All Food Items Should Be Discarded: This is a no-brainer, but food that has been stored in a grossly contaminated environment cannot be salvaged and served at another Cracker Barrel location.  That is just asking for trouble.  This applies to all grocery items and single service items.  Essentially, if it is food they have to throw it away.

Equipment Must Be Stored, Cleaned, Sanitized, and Tested: It would be unreasonable to suggest equipment should be thrown out with the food.  You don’t throw the baby out with the bath water.  Appropriate measures must be taken to ensure that this Salmonella contamination does not transfer to another Cracker Barrel restaurant.  Any equipment – think stoves, ovens, tables, anything that is an asset that would not remain in the building after vacating, must be handled appropriately.  Equipment will be quarantined to a storage facility for cleaning.  It must be cleaned, sanitized, and tested to be safe for use before transferring to an existing Cracker Barrel, a new location, or for resale.

Unsafe Equipment Must Be Destroyed: Some equipment may not be salvageable.  If the equipment cannot be properly cleaned or repeat sanitation and sampling generate positive Salmonella results, the equipment will be deemed unsafe and must be destroyed.

Cracker Barrel Must Consult with Health & Community Safety on Status of Building: After all of the food is discarded and all of the salvageable equipment is removed, the shell of the building remains.  This is good real estate and still a company asset. Cracker Barrel owns the building, but the fate of that property must include consultation with Kalamazoo Health & Community Safety.

Salmonella Facts

Several different Salmonellatypes exist.  While they can vary in severity of illness, symptoms of infection are generally the same. Whether exposed to the Cracker Barrel contamination or any other potential exposure, I have compiled a few fast facts to arm you with knowledge.

  • Salmonella is common. More common than you can imagine. In fact, the CDC estimates that around 1.2 million illness resulting in 23,000 hospitalization and 450 deaths occur in the United States each year.  Some of these cases are acquired outside of the US and then diagnosed when the patient returns home.  That accounts for 0.1 million  (or 100,000) cases.  A significant 1 million cases are linked to foodborne infection alone.  If you are following the math here, that only leaves 100,000 remaining cases attributed to other exposures.  Food related Salmonella cases are responsible for around 19,000 hospitalizations and about 380 deaths each year.

 

  • Symptoms range from mild to serious. Most people will develop symptoms around 12 to 72 hours after exposure and often last around 4 to 7 days.  These include diarrhea, fever, and abdominal cramps which most people will recover from without medical intervention.  Some cases are more extreme where diarrhea may be so severe that dehydration occurs.  If this occurs, the patient will likely require hospitalization as this often results in infection moving from the intestines into the blood and onto other parts of the body.  If antibiotics are not promptly administered, death is likely to occur.

 

  • Some people are at higher risk than others. The very young, the very old, and those with a compromised immune system are more likely to experience more severe illness and resulting complications.

If you feel you may have been exposed to Salmonella at this Cracker Barrel location, seek medical attention as necessary. Social media may be viral, but Salmonella infection is a serious bacterial problem.

By: Heather Van Tassell, Contributing Writer (Non-Lawyer)