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Published: Saturday, 7/8/2006

Eatery investigated after dozens become ill

BY ERICA BLAKE
AND JENNIFER FEEHAN
BLADE STAFF WRITERS

A popular Toledo eatery is being investigated as the likely source of a food-borne illness from contaminated potato salad that left as many as 100 people sick.

Nick & Jimmy's Bar & Grill, 4956 Monroe St., catered a June 15 graduation party in the Bowling Green area, after which people became ill.

The Ohio Department of Health is investigating the complaint with the help of the Toledo-Lucas County and the Wood County health departments.

Amy Jones, communicable disease nurse for the Wood County health department, said yesterday that potato salad served at the gathering tested "fairly high for fecal coliform."

She added that the Ohio health department found that eight stool samples from people who ate the potato salad all tested positive for Norovirus.

Ms. Jones said the potato salad most likely was contaminated when a food service employee failed to wash his or her hands after using the restroom.

"Typically, when you're talking about fecal oral contamination, it can be truly as simple as someone who went to the bathroom and didn't wash their hands before preparing the food or not wearing gloves when preparing food," she said.

The Toledo-Lucas County health department followed up on the complaint with a June 16 inspection of Nick & Jimmy's Monroe Street location. According to health department records, inspectors found 35 violations, including 12 that were labeled critical.

Among the critical violations was an employee observed smoking in the restaurant's kitchen.

A June 27 follow-up inspection indicated only three violations, of which two were critical, according to records.

The following day, the health department issued a public health order to "cease and desist" all catering operations be-cause the restaurant is not a licensed caterer.

The letter to the restaurant said that the health department was investigating a food-borne illness.

Alan Ruffell, director of environmental health for the Toledo-Lucas County health department, confirmed that Nick & Jimmy's was issued an order, but declined to discuss the investigation until the final report is issued by the state health department.

Nick Tokles, owner of Nick & Jimmy's Bar & Grill, could not be reached for comment yesterday.

Several people who became ill after the June 15 gathering sought treatment at Wood County Hospital, and one person was sick enough to be admitted, said Brad Espen, director of environmental services at the Wood County health department.

Common symptoms from the food-borne illness include vomiting, diarrhea, headaches, fatigue, muscle aches, and fever.

Contact Erica Blake at:

eblake@theblade.com

or 419-724-6076.



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