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Food Safety Consultant Sues Eatery After Falling Ill

Pattie McNiel, who coordinates Michigan State University's food safety program and also runs her own consulting business, became ill after eating a carryout salad from a Bravo restaurant on May 7 - the same afternoon she was working with another Ingham County restaurant that had been cited for violations, the newspaper reported.

McNiel said she filed the lawsuit because in March she told a Bravo manager about several violations she had witnessed while eating there. She doesn't believe he followed up on her recommendations, according to the newspaper.

"I don't want to see people get sick like this again for no reason," she was quoted as saying. "This could have been avoided."

At least 360 people have reported becoming ill after eating at the Eastwood Towne Center restaurant, Ingham County Health Department officials said Monday, the Lansing State Journal said. However, spokeswoman Natasha Davidson pointed out that the health department has not verified why patrons became sick after eating there.

Pam Ritz, spokeswoman for Bravo Development Inc., in Columbus, Ohio, which owns the restaurant, said the company suspects a norovirus, which in January sickened more than 400 patrons at a Delta Township Carrabba's Italian Grill.

Noroviruses are a group of related, single-stranded RNA, nonenveloped viruses that cause acute gastroenteritis in humans. Norovirus was recently approved as the official genus name for the group of viruses provisionally described as "Norwalk-like viruses" (NLV). Viruses are very different from bacteria and parasites, some of which can cause illnesses similar to norvirus infection. Viruses are much smaller, are not affected by treatment with antibiotics, and cannot grow outside of a person's body.

The Centers for Disease Control, Atlanta, says the symptoms of norovirus illness usually include nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and some stomach cramping. Sometimes people additionally have a low-grade fever, chills, headache, muscle aches, and a general sense of tiredness. The illness often begins suddenly, and the infected person may feel very sick. The illness is usually brief, with symptoms lasting only about one or two days. In general, children experience more vomiting than adults. Most people with norovirus illness have both of these symptoms.

The newspaper reported that Bravo patrons said they became sick between May 3 and May 11. They complained of vomiting, diarrhea, nausea and other symptoms. The restaurant, which voluntarily shut down May 11, has been thoroughly cleaned and sanitized, Ritz said.

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