Public Health investigates foodborne illness link to Cafe Juanita in Kirkland

Public Health — Seattle &King County recently investigated a foodborne outbreak associated with a Kirkland restaurant.

Cafe Juanita, which remains open, was linked to two people becoming ill after sharing a meal June 24, according to Public Health public information officer James Apa.

Both people, a male and a female in their 20s, were later diagnosed with campylobacteriosis, an infection of the intestines caused by the Campylobacter bacteria.

Campylobacteriosis can cause bloody diarrhea, nausea, vomiting, stomach cramps and fever within one to 10 days after ingesting the bacteria; usually the fever comes on between two and five days, according to a Public Health blog post.

“In persons with compromised immune systems, Campylobacter occasionally spreads to the bloodstream and causes a serious life-threatening infection,” according to Public Health. “Most cases of campylobacteriosis are associated with consumption of undercooked meat (especially poultry) or ready-to-eat foods that have been contaminated with juices from raw meat.”

The two who reportedly became ill shared multiple food items, including foie gras, made from duck or goose liver, which has been linked to previous Campylobacter outbreaks when eaten raw or undercooked, according to Public Health.

One of the two persons that reportedly became ill contacted Public Health July 24. Public Health was unable to confirm the information about the second ill person until Aug. 16.

“Part of what we do with the investigation is going into the restaurant,” Apa said.

Public Health visited Cafe Juanita Aug. 17.

“During the field inspection, inspectors observed the cooking process and checked the final cooking temperature of the foie gras,” according to the blog post. “Although it reached a safe temperature during the inspection, workers had not been using a thermometer.”

Public Health inspectors instructed Cafe Juanita staff to use the food thermometer to “ensure that all foods are reaching the correct temperatures to kill harmful bacteria that may be present.”

Inspectors visited the restaurant again on Aug. 22 to review sources and preparation steps of the other foods the pair may have consumed.

Apa recommended that “if you’re eating out and you receive undercooked poultry, be sure to send it back for further cooking.”

When cooking at home, he recommends cooking all poultry products thoroughly, cooking it to a safe minimum internal temperature of 165 degrees Fahrenheit.

Public Health also advises to wash your hands with soap before and after preparing food, especially if you’re handling raw meats.

“Prevent cross-contamination in the kitchen by using separate cutting boards for foods of animal origin and other foods and by thoroughly cleaning all cutting boards, countertops, and utensils with soap and hot water after preparing raw food of animal origin,” according to the blog post.

While person-to-person transmission of campylobacteriosis is uncommon, Public Health advises that people with diarrhea, “especially children, wash their hands carefully and frequently with soap to reduce the risk of spreading the infection.”

“Large outbreaks of campylobacteriosis have been associated with consumption of contaminated water, unpasteurized milk, or cheese,” according to Public Health. “Humans can become infected after contact with infected pets, especially puppies and kittens.”

Public Health advises against drinking unpasteurized milk or untreated surface water.

Cafe Juanita is located at 9702 NE 120th Place in Kirkland.