OC Health Care Agency's Veil of Vomit

Why are they still covering up an April outbreak of E. coli at a local restaurant?

Food and Safety News is undeterred; last week, it filed a public-records request with HCA, demanding "the names and locations of any restaurant establishments associated with the outbreak" and "any summary health-department reports."

"We have always argued there could well be people who ate at that restaurant that got sick—maybe they were traveling in Arizona, got the symptoms, but since nothing else was going on, their doctor never submitted their stool sample [to health officials]," Flynn says. "If they would read somewhere there was an outbreak at a restaurant they were at, they would realize they [had contracted E. coli] and receive the proper medical help."

It's not as though the HCA hasn't previously dealt with E. coli cases. In 2007, 14 people contracted the pathogen after eating at a Souplantation in Foothill Ranch. Then, health officials not only announced the name of the restaurant almost immediately after realizing its role, but it also continued to alert the public via press releases and interviews with the media.

Jared Boggess

For the April 2012 cases, on the other hand, the only outreach HCA did was a confidential April 25 memo obtained by the Weekly issued to Orange County health-care providers warning, "We recently received an increase in reports of E. coli" and asking providers to send any "suspect or confirmed cases" to them.

HCA officials did not return the Weekly's request for comment.

This article appeared in print as "A Veil of Vomit: Why is the OC Health Care Agency still covering up an April outbreak of E. coli at a local restaurant?"

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