By: Pooja Sharma

Health specialists, epidemiologists, and other officials at the Georgia Department of Public Health, the Northwest Health District, and the Bartow County Health Department are investigating a possible food poisoning outbreak at Toyo Tire last week in White, Georgia. All the officials have together landed on a conclusion that all the illnesses are related to food poisoning by Salmonella even though what food was the source of the problem is not yet known. The facility held a two-day holiday celebration, complete with a meal, at their location last week. Logan Boss, spokesperson for the department’s Northwest Health District said the culprit – Salmonella – was discovered after multiple laboratory tests from the employees who attended the event came in positive for the bacteria.

Hundreds of people became ill after eating a Thanksgiving dinner on November 14-15, catered by Angelo’s New York Style Pizza and Bistro. This pizza company served turkey and other Thanksgiving foods last Wednesday to approximately 1800 people. The news media has reported that the company (caterers) has temporarily shut down during the investigation. The news came out when more than 500 employees out of the 1800 that were hosted had checked in at doctor’s offices for illnesses, received immediate medical help, and got urgent care at hospitals since Wednesday. Health officials have not yet determined the possible food source of the outbreak, and they are still working on the total number of people that have been affected.

“The food source of the Salmonella outbreak is not yet known and the total number of illnesses are not yet confirmed,” said Logan Boss, spokesman for the state public health department. It was reported that after the Thanksgiving party, several employees started complaining about symptoms, such as: vomiting, abdominal cramps, and diarrhea. There are 5 people who were hospitalized in connection to this Thanksgiving dinner. There is no word yet on their diagnosis and the current status of their health.

The Bartow County Health Department is currently investigating the caterers for their food preparation, storage, and handling practices. They are also looking into whether or not there were other sources of food involved at the event or if the caterer was the only source of food at the event. They are also investigating on whether these caterers served food at other events or locations. To be safe from any further complications, Angelo’s has closed pending mandatory health inspections and food safety and health actions. Logan Boss has not commented on any sanctions that could be or would be levied on the caterers. They are following up on the public health aspects of the outbreak and making sure that the restaurant soon becomes safe to reopen.

The family behind the restaurant released a statement on Friday about the outbreak, which undoubtedly has been a public relations nightmare for them. John T. Mroczko, the attorney of the company said, “Angelo and his family are heartbroken about the recent incident at Toyo Tire and offer their deepest sympathies and prayers to those who have been affected”. He added to this statement saying, “This community is their home and their customers are like a family to them”. The safety of their consumers and their food has always been on a high priority for them”. Public health records of Angelo’s, which is located on the Henderson drive, shows that it has undergone food service inspections five times since November 2015. 88/B, the lowest score that the restaurant got was shown on September 26. Previous scores include – 87/B on March 16, 93/A on September 19 and 93/A on November 5, 2015.

Numerous social media postings by people all over the Internet have expressed concerns about the Toyo’s policy of assessing points to people who are out of work would continue to be assessed even though the company hosted event could be one of the possible reasons of the illnesses. A Toyo employee who did not want to be identified said that the employees were told that they would lose holiday pay or would not get points if they are being out for illnesses related to company sanctioned event.

Salmonella affects almost a million people in US each year. Its symptoms include: abdominal cramps, diarrhea, and vomiting. Salmonella sources generally include eggs, meat, and dairy products, but can also get into fruits and vegetables due to improper handling. Most of the people recover without any treatment while others need antibiotics and sometimes, hospitalization. The incubation period of Salmonella is 6-72 hours. This is when those infected will begin to show the symptoms of the illness. Those infected with Salmonella should rest and take in plenty of fluids until they recover. To avoid passing on any infection, you should make sure that you wash your hands to prevent any oral-fecal route bacterial transfer.

It is crucial that more and more people know about the outbreak so that those affected can take appropriate actions as soon as possible. Getting medical check-up early is crucial when it comes to foodborne illnesses. The earlier you go see a doctor, the less the risk of complications and shorter the recovery time. A list of severe symptoms that demands immediate medical check-up include:

  • High fever with a temperature above 101.5° Fahrenheit
  • Blood in stools
  • Frequent vomiting or diarrhea (it can cause severe dehydration)
  • Diarrhea that lasts for more than 3 days
  • Signs of dehydration – some of these include dry throat and mouth, decreased urination, and feeling dizzy while standing up

Georgia public health officials at both the regional offices in Rome and county office in Cartersville are continuing to work with Toyo Human Resources to get in more information about the outbreak directly from around 1800 employees that have been affected by the outbreak and then compiling all the results.

At Unsafe Foods, we will make sure to keep you updated with any more news on this outbreak as more information is released.