Chorizo source of Salmonella cases

by Meat&Poultry Staff
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LAS VEGAS – Public health officials said chorizo is the likely source of a Salmonella outbreak that sickened more than 200 people who ate a popular Las Vegas restaurant in April.

The Southern Nevada Health District's Office of Epidemiology received reports of gastrointestinal illness from eight independent groups of people who ate at Firefly on Paradise or the affiliated Dragonfly on Paradise in Las Vegas. All patrons reported eating at the restaurant during April 21-24. Public health officials opened an investigation into the illnesses on April 26, and the restaurant has been closed since. Officials with the health district reported that, as of May 20, a total of 294 people had illnesses that met the case definition, although 73 were confirmed and 221 were probable cases. Illnesses onset dates were with April 22 to May 1, and people from 27 states and two foreign countries were affected, according to the agency.

John Simmons, owner of Firefly, said in a statement that he has hired a food-safety consultant and is working to implement recommendations from the health district. He is opening a restaurant at a new location near the old site. For its part, SNHD said no future actions are planned. Public health officials will continue to enforce safe food handling and storage practices by the restaurant management and staff, and to monitor results of the USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service trace-back investigation.

Twenty-one food items were analyzed and cooked chorizo tested positive for the outbreak strain.
"The chorizo came into the restaurant raw and was subsequently cooked by Firefly restaurant staff," the SNHD report stated. "However, in light of the laboratory result that the outbreak strain of Salmonella was isolated from the cooked chorizo, trace-back efforts have been redirected at the chorizo products due to a small possibility that raw chorizo was contaminated prior to arriving at Firefly."

As of May 20, the agency said at least 290 patrons and four employees who ate food and/or drinks at Firefly from April 21-26 have been confirmed or probable cases of Salmonella infection. The report added that the number of cases being reported has declined significantly since the restaurant closed, and no concurrent cases matching the outbreak strain have been identified other than those linked to Firefly on Paradise.

"It is likely that the outbreak was due to local cross-contamination in the restaurant's kitchen and not from a contaminated commercial food," according to the report.
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