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Colorado Restaurant Struggles with Possible Foodborne Pathogen Incident

NEW YORK - As one restaurant in Fort Collins, CO, is undergoing intensive scrutiny in the wake of alleged foodborne contamination, other eateries in the area are not concerned by negative residual consequences, reported local media.

Rayno Seaser, owner of the Egg & I restaurants in Fort Collins and northern Colorado, said people shouldn't worry about the safety of eating at restaurants because staffs do a good job of practicing healthy and safe food preparation.

"We have signs posted all over our restaurants and we have a safety coordinator in each of our restaurants that is certified by the county health department," Seaser was quoted as saying. "The kitchens in restaurants are much cleaner than most of the kitchens in people's homes."

Good safety practices are always an issue that is discussed with employees, Seaser said. "We all go overboard to make food safety a top priority," he added.

The Fort Collins Texas Roadhouse, where 143 people allegedly contracted an illness based on foodborne pathogens, is temporarily closed as Larimer County health officials look into whether the restaurant is responsible for an outbreak of norovirus, a food-borne illness that is easily spread and can linger on tables, plates, glasses and other objects.

Norm Koch, assistant manager at Jay's Bistro, doesn't expect there will be much of a change in people's choice to eat out in the wake of the illnesses. "I think people have such a busy lifestyle that, by nature, they are going out to eat more," he said. "I don't expect that to change any." Jay's hasn't seen a decrease in business since the illnesses first were reported, Koch said.

Business at another local restaurant, Albert Pit Barbecue, has also not shown signs of business slowing down, manager and owner Korey Albert told local news media. "Business today was very good," he said.

Last year, the Fort Collins' Texas Roadhouse scored "good" on its county health department inspection. In 2002, the restaurant received a score of "excellent."

Peter Wilms, a director of training for food distributor Nobel/Sysco Food Services, said that's what makes the incident surprising. Echoing comments by food-safety experts across the industry, Wilms said foodborne illnesses can "happen to anybody at any time" if restaurants aren't vigilant in maintaining good employee hygiene.

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