Illnesses Reported at Pita Hot in Orange County, California
Pita Hot Open for Business Despite Hundreds of Reports of Illness
Family-owned restaurant Pita Hot serves up Mediterranean fare in Orange County, California. Highly rated by customers, Pita Hot is known for their beef and chicken Shawarma, kabobs, lamb and falafel. Over the past few weeks, however, hundreds of loyal patrons have reported major illness following their dining experience at the Pita Hot. Health officials are linking these reports to the extremely common, yet potentially dangerous, Norovirus. More than 685 million cases of this gastrointestinal illness are thought to occur worldwide, annually, resulting in approximately 200,00 deaths.
Despite the high number of reported illnesses, the Pita Hot has been given the green light to continue operating. Closed for one day only, during which Pita Hot was instructed clean and dispose of more than 1,200 lbs. of potentially contaminated food, they were allowed to reopen their doors the following day. Health inspectors have since linked the virus to sick employees. The norovirus can transmit through various channels- the air, contaminated surfaces or person-to-person contact. In this case there is confirmation of at least two sick employees. As a condition of re-opening the sick employees were required to vacate the premises for a minimum of 72 hours following the end of all symptoms.
By law, restaurants must report cases of two or more restaurant employees experiencing gastrointestinal illness to the local enforcement agency. It is unclear if employee illnesses were reported or if the outbreak was surfaced by the nearly two hundred restaurant patrons. In addition to the ill workers, the local enforcement called out several concerns related to conditions at the restaurant that can contribute to food related illness. These concerns were related in part to incorrect temperatures of stored foods. In particular, they found meats kept at too low of a temperature, creating a breeding ground for foodborne bacterium. Additionally, they report dirty conditions and employees living at the restaurant.
As there are no mandates specific to the amount of time a restaurant must be closed in the case of a foodborne illness outbreak, the health department makes the call they deem appropriate. A protocol is followed that identifies the violations, determines the source and actions are taken to mitigate any further problems. Once the restaurant is found to be in compliance the health department will allow re-opening. At this time, Pita Hot has taken the corrective actions as directed by Orange County Health Department and can resume serving up their Mediterranean fare. With hundreds having fallen ill from improper food handling and ill employees – hopefully Pita Hot will take much greater care going forward.
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