A super-sized case of foodborne illness has struck again: A Maggiano's restaurant in the Seattle suburb of Bellevue, Wash. has been shuttered following a suspected norovirus outbreak that sickened up to 50 people, reports the Seattle Times.
The suspected food poisoning occurred at a private event (the organizer of which is no doubt currently wishing they'd chosen Buca di Beppo instead). Lab tests have yet to confirm that it's norovirus, but in the meantime the restaurant's food handling license has been suspended.
Maggiano's, which is owned by Chili's parent company Brinker, issued a statement that read in part:
Last Wednesday, Maggiano’s became aware of a party that reported illness after visiting our restaurant in Bellevue two days prior, on Monday, January 18. We immediately reported this potential issue to the King County Health Department, and have been working closely with them to thoroughly investigate. To date, we have no confirmed diagnosis of a food-borne illness, and no other reports of any guest outside of this single party becoming ill.
We are taking this isolated incident very seriously and have thoroughly disinfected the restaurant. We maintain strict standards of quality, safety and cleanliness in our restaurants and train every teammate in proper food safety and handling. Additionally, teammates are required to report illness to management, which results in immediate exclusion from work.
According to an update from the King County health department, it's not quite clear who was responsible for the outbreak: "One or more of the [event] attendees may have already been ill at the time of the event. Several restaurant workers were also believed to be ill with symptoms consistent with norovirus dating back to 1/9/16 and over the subsequent two weeks."
But regardless of who's actually responsible, it's unlikely that any of the affected diners will be returning to a Maggiano's in the near future: Norovirus causes stomach pain, nausea, diarrhea, and vomiting, and according to the CDC is responsible for approximately 70,000 hospitalizations and as many as 800 deaths each year.
A Chipotle store in Boston suffered a norovirus outbreak back in December that made more than 100 people ill; in an effort to combat future disasters of this nature, Chipotle has announced it will offer workers paid sick days to discourage them from working through illness. The company is already facing at least one lawsuit related to said norovirus disaster, however.