Florida Department of Health was notified of at least three E. coli O157 cases in January 2019 who dined at Bern’s Steak House, located in Tampa, Florida. In food history interviews, these cases reported dining at Bern’s between January 2 – January 7. For these three cases, illness onset occurred between January 8 – January 11.
At least two of these cases made a foodborne illness complaint against Bern’s at their local health department. It is not clear if any investigation was conducted at the restaurant by the Florida Department of Health in response to these complaints. However, online information regarding inspection history of Tampa, Florida restaurants suggests that an investigation was conducted at Bern’s on January 16, at which point 11 violations were noted.
The inspector observed several notable violations including ready-to-eat, potentially hazardous, foods requiring time and/or temperature control being inadequately held for more than 24 hours as well as multiple instances of employees handling ready-to-eat food with bare hands without any subsequent “kill” step. Further, handwash sinks were improperly stocked, and the required handwashing signs were absent from employee handwash sinks. Other citations included issues with storage of personal belongings, container and kitchen tool defects, unmarked and undated foods. A follow-up visit on January 22 found these issues to be corrected, yet an observation regarding use of cutting boards that were in an uncleanable state was noted and subsequently found to be unremedied a week later.
Additional inspection records leading up to the January inspections demonstrate a history of similar health code violations. Specifically, inadequately stocked employee handwash facilities were a chronic violation and observations of improperly maintained food handling equipment were regularly cited.