Fig & Olive in West Hollywood linked to salmonella outbreaks, lawsuits filed

Fig & Olive has been linked to salmonella outbreaks at two of its restaurants on opposite sides of the country, one in Washington, D.C.’s, City Center and another on Melrose Place in West Hollywood.

The D.C. outbreak may have sickened as many as 160 people in five states, according to the Food Poisoning Bulletin. The outbreak in West Hollywood, according to a statement released by the restaurant, has sickened at least 12 people, including some employees. Nine of the confirmed California cases were caused by the same strain of salmonella bacteria implicated in the D.C. outbreak. The restaurants are part of a New York-based chain.

On Sept. 28, a lawsuit was filed in U.S. District Court in Los Angeles by Marler Clark LLP, which has already filed two suits on behalf of sickened patrons of the Washington Fig & Olive. 

“It seems a bit more than a coincidence that the same restaurant is having salmonella issues on each coast,” said Bill Marler, a Seattle-based food safety attorney who already has filed two lawsuits against Fig & Olive on behalf of sickened consumers in Washington.

“It certainly raises the specter that there may well be a common ingredient that is causing this bicoastal problem,” Marler said. The attorney said he was contacted Thursday by a person who ate at the West Hollywood location and has been diagnosed with salmonella poisoning.

Although the culprit has not yet been determined, dishes that contain truffle oil (including fries and mushroom croquettes) have been removed from the menu at both locations.

According to the PritzkerOlson law firm’s website: "There has not been a recall because Fig & Olive makes their truffle oil, according to the California Department of Environmental Health and Acute Communicable Disease Control." The firm states that it is representing people sickened at the D.C. Fig & Olive and has been contacted by individuals who became ill after eating at the West Hollywood location.

In the West Hollywood outbreak, symptomatic food handlers were removed from the job, according to the Food Poisoning Bulletin, which added that the health department is interviewing patients and staff to try to trace the source of the outbreak.

The D.C. Fig & Olive was closed for six days and then allowed to reopen. 

Representatives for Fig & Olive told The Times that both locations are open for regular business. "A week ago, we voluntarily closed our West Hollywood location for a brief time after some diners and employees reported they had become sick. We immediately hired a third-party food safety firm and worked with the Public Health Department in Los Angeles to address the situation.

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"After taking steps to ensure that all food preparation and safety standards were being followed, that food stocks were safe, and all employees had been screened, the restaurant reopened the same day with the Health Department’s approval."

The restaurant would not say on what date the incident occurred, but the West Hollywood Fig & Olive did host at least two Emmy-related events, including a celebrity gifting suite and luncheon on Sept. 17 and an "Entertainment Weekly" pre-Emmy party on Sept. 19. 

Did Jon Hamm come this close to eating a bad mushroom croquette? We can’t even think about it.

According to a statement sent to The Times on Sept. 25 by the L.A. County Dept. of Public Health, the agency's investigation into the salmonella outbreak at the West Hollywood Fig & Olive is "ongoing."

The agency added that "twenty persons meeting a clinical definition for Salmonella reported eating at this restaurant between Sept. 6 and Sept. 11, 2015.  Of these, seven have been confirmed by laboratory tests detecting the Salmonella. ... In addition to patrons of the restaurant, three restaurant employees were identified with the same Salmonella type.

"This ongoing investigation is being coordinated by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention with participation by the Food and Drug Administration, and several state and local health departments including Public Health."

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Copyright © 2017, Los Angeles Times

UPDATE

Sept. 25, 4:10 p.m. This article has been updated to include a new statement by the L.A. County Dept. of Public Health. 

Sept. 29, 4:24 p.m. This article has been further updated to include information about lawsuits being filed against Fig & Olive. 

This article was originally published at 8:30 a.m.

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