Cracker Barrel permanently closed its Old Country Store location in Kalamazoo, Michigan, because of significant Salmonella contamination.
Health officials had been working with restaurant employees to identify the cause of a Salmonella strain found only in southwest Michigan, but they ultimately came up empty. A recently diagnosed Salmonella case prompted an expedited testing assessment by the Michigan Department of Agriculture & Rural Development and Cracker Barrel’s private testing firm.
The decision to permanently close the location, which had been in business for 25 years, was in response to environmental test results from Cracker Barrel’s private testing firm that indicated a significant amount of Salmonella contamination.
Cracker Barrel: the investigation
The Kalamazoo County Health & Community Services Department (HCS) told 24 Hour News 8 in an email that it has worked closely with Cracker Barrel management and state partners in the investigation.
“Kalamazoo HCS staff will continue to work with Cracker Barrel as they focus their efforts on permanently closing the facility,” said Jim Rutherford, HCS health officer.
HCS said it will ensure that the following actions are taken as Cracker Barrel vacates the facility:
- Food items – including grocery items and single-service items located at the Kalamazoo location – will be discarded.
- Equipment will be transported to a storage facility and will not be used in any food-service establishment until it is cleaned, sanitized, and tested and judged safe to use.
- Equipment not considered safe will be destroyed.
- Cracker Barrel – which owns the building – will determine what to do with the property in consultation with HCS.
Cracker Barrel: June violations
The situation began in June, when Cracker Barrel was cited with health-code violations. Cracker Barrel closed the restaurant voluntarily at that time to address the findings and renovate the facility.
HCS worked with Cracker Barrel through the renovations, and the restaurant stayed closed until it met all Michigan Food Law requirements to reopen. HCS inspected the restaurant one more time before it reopened.
Cracker Barrel: email statement
In an email to MLive and the Kalamazoo Gazette, Cracker Barrel officials said:
“In support of this investigation, we’ve taken steps to address any risk that may be present in our Kalamazoo store, and we’ve made substantial upgrades to the store and its procedures above standard requirements.
“However, despite the extraordinary efforts made to eradicate the presence of this strain in the store environment, we couldn’t get comfortable that we could prevent a reoccurrence and therefore we have made the very difficult decision to close the Kalamazoo location effective immediately.”
Cracker Barrel: food poisoning
Salmonella are responsible for about 1.2 million foodborne illnesses in the United States on a yearly basis, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The bacteria produce an illness called salmonellosis that affects the intestinal tract.
Salmonellosis can develop anywhere from 12 hours to 72 hours after consumption of food contaminated with Salmonella. As with most types of food poisoning, symptoms can include:
- abdominal pain
Symptoms can last as long as a week. Most people recover without needing to see a health-care professional, but in some cases, diarrhea can be so severe that hospitalization is necessary.
Cracker Barrel: high-risk groups
The CDC estimates that of the 1.2 million annual cases, 23,000 victims will need to be hospitalized, and approximately 450 will die. People most at risk for complications are children younger than 5 years old, senior citizens, and anyone with a weakened immune system.
In that last category are pregnant women, because of hormonal changes. A pregnant woman who contracts salmonellosis can suffer a miscarriage, go into premature labor, or suffer stillbirth.