Salmonella outbreaks in restaurants in Minnesota, 1995 through 2003: Evaluation of the role of infected foodworkers

Carlota Medus, Kirk E. Smith, Jeff B Bender, John M. Besser, Craig W Hedberg

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44 Scopus citations


The 23 restaurant-associated salmonellosis outbreaks that occurred in Minnesota from 1995 through 2003 were reviewed to characterize the role of infected food workers. The median duration of the outbreaks was 21 days (range, 1 to 517 days). The median number of culture-confirmed patron cases per outbreak was seven (range, 1 to 36 cases). The median incubation for patron cases ranged from 9 h to 5.9 days. A specific food vehicle was implicated in four outbreaks and suspected in five. Salmonella of the same serotype and pulsed-field gel electrophoresis subtype as that found in patrons was recovered from foodworkers in 19 outbreaks. Overall, 12% (129 of 1,033) of foodworkers tested positive for Salmonella. Sixty-four (53%) of 121 Salmonella-positive foodworkers reported not having had a recent gastrointestinal illness. Overall, the median duration of Salmonella shedding was 16 days. Among foodworkers who reported gastrointestinal illness, the median shedding duration was 30 days as compared with 3 days for asymptomatic foodworkers. Positive environmental samples were recovered in 4 (33%) of 12 outbreaks. No specific food vehicle was identified in any outbreaks associated with Salmonella-positive environmental samples. The median duration of outbreaks with positive environmental samples (187 days) was significantly longer than the median duration of outbreaks with negative environmental results (26 days, P = 0.03). A higher proportion of Salmonella-positive foodworkers (22 versus 8%) was identified in outbreaks with positive environmental samples. Salmonella outbreaks in restaurants are frequently prolonged yet produce a small number of confirmed patron cases. Prolonged outbreak durations suggest a persistent reservoir of contamination. Infected foodworkers likely serve as an important source for Salmonella transmission. Therefore, assessment of foodworker infection is essential for controlling restaurant outbreaks.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1870-1878
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of food protection
Issue number8
StatePublished - Aug 2006


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