In September of 2003, a report of several male patients testing positive for E. coli O157:H7 was reported to the St Clair County Health Department. All patients had eaten at a Habaneros Mexican Restaurant located in the St Claire Square Mall.
The SCCHD also received other reports of people having similar symptoms after having eaten at the same restaurant, and a foodborne outbreak investigation was conducted. The restaurant agreed to voluntarily cease operations while the foodborne outbreak investigation was underway.
On-site investigations of the restaurant revealed that the temperature of ground beef hot held on the steam table was acceptable, but inadequate cooling of ground beef cooked two days earlier was noted. The walk-in cooler was also so crowded that air could not circulate around meat containers.
Employees were instructed to cook meat in smaller batches, which would allow for more rapid cooling.