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Carbón Reopens In Bridgeport, Health Dept. Completes E. Coli Investigation

By Ed Komenda | August 3, 2016 12:48pm
 Carbón Live Fire Mexican Grill, 300 W. 26th St., has reopened after an E. coli outbreak there sickened dozens.
Carbón Live Fire Mexican Grill, 300 W. 26th St., has reopened after an E. coli outbreak there sickened dozens.
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DNAinfo/Ed Komenda

BRIDGEPORT — Carbón Live Fire Mexican Grill has reopened.

After an E. coli outbreak that began there sickened more than 60 customers and forced owners to close, the Chicago Department of Public Health cleared the restaurant at 300 W. 26th St. to open on July 29.

“The food-testing portion of the investigation has concluded,” said Brian Richardson, a Health Department spokesman. “There are no known hazards present, and Carbón met all requirements to reopen.”

Though the Health Department has completed its investigation, health officials were unable to determine the source of the E. coli.

In foodborne illness investigations involving produce and other perishable food items, health experts say it’s often impossible to definitively identify a singular food item as the source of an outbreak.

“Though the [Health Department] conducted tests on numerous food items, that is the case in this instance,” Richardson said.

Carbón owners have not answered requests for comment.

During the investigation, all prepared food was thrown out, food-handling practices were reviewed, and all restaurant employees who handle food were tested at least twice for the bacteria.

Stool samples collected from victims revealed a toxin-producing E. coli called Shiga, a dangerous bacteria that can cause kidney failure. Victims often get sick from Shiga E. coli after eating food prepared by people who did not wash their hands well after using the bathroom.

As of Wednesday, the number of victims in the Carbón E. coli outbreak had reached 68, and 22 people had been hospitalized. The most common form of E. coli every year causes about 96,000 illnesses, 3,200 hospitalizations and 31 deaths in the U.S., according to Food Safety News.

The outbreak forced the popular business to cancel plans to participate in this year's Taste of Chicago and close both their restaurants until the Health Department completed an investigation. On July 9, health officials cleared Carbón’s West Town restaurant to reopen at 810 N. Marshfield Ave.

City records show Carbón had passed every one of nine city health inspections since 2011. Four of those inspections happened after customers complained.

The outbreak led Chicago resident Melissa Andrews, who spent days in the hospital after eating some of the restaurant's chicken tacos, to file a lawsuit against the restaurant.

Andrews seeks compensation for medical expenses, lost wages and her suffering, according to Bill Marler, the Seattle-based lawyer representing Andrews and four others who said they were sickened.

E. coli symptoms include debilitating stomach cramps, diarrhea and vomiting. Though most cases clear up in a week, the worst of them can cause a type of kidney failure known as hemolytic uremic syndrome.

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