The Oklahoma State Health Department arrived in Locust Grove at nightfall last Aug. 22nd to investigate multiple reports of food poisoning in the area.

They knew by the next day that the Country Cottage restaurant was implicated in the outbreak, but allowed popular family dining spot to remain open until it closed voluntarily three days later on Aug. 26th.

The slow response was detailed today by Daily Oklahoman reporters Tony Thornton, Randy Ellis and Nolan Clay.  They reported that:

State Health Department officials allowed a Locust Grove restaurant to stay open temporarily — even after confirming six of eight initial food poisoning victims had eaten its food, internal documents show.
That decision may have resulted in additional people getting sick.

A rare strain of E. coli, 0111, caused the outbreak that killed a 26-year old man, put 72 in the hospital including seriously injured children, and made another 241 sick.

The Country Cottage remains closed. According to health officials, every 0111 victim had consumed food prepared by the Country Cottage. Officials have been unable to isolate a single source.

The work of the Oklahoman’s investigative reporters can be found here.