WPRI continues its in-depth coverage on the one-year anniversary of the salmonella-in-Zeppole outbreak that killed up to 3 and sickened 83.
A lawsuit filed by the family of a Cranston man who died one year ago this week after eating zeppole pastry days before the salmonella outbreak, named three Rhode Island companies in a lawsuit.
According to the lawsuit , plaintiff Frank R. Castelli bought “bakery products from Defusco's Bakery, Inc. and/or Tony's Colonial Food, Inc to be consumed by his father, Plaintiff, Frank Castelli.”
The 84-year-old Cranston resident developed flu like symptoms around the time of last Saint Joseph’s day and died on March 23, 2011. Frank R. Castelli said his father was healthy in the days leading up to eating the pastry.
Buono's Italian Bakery is the third company named in the lawsuit. John Doe Corporation is also listed as a defendant as a "fictitious" place holder for a company that could be named at a later date.
The defendants are accused of 3 counts each; Strict liability, breach of warranty and negligence.
The lawsuit alleges Castelli's “illness and death were a result of the bakery products he ingested which were contaminated with salmonella.”
Arnold Buono, the owner of Buono’s, is unsure why his bakery is name in the lawsuit.
“All toxicology reports from my bakery came back negative for salmonella,” Buono said.
Buono told target 12 he sold zeppoles to Tony's Colonial Food last year.
“We made about 7,500 zeppoles and we didn’t hear about anyone getting sick," Buono said.
None of the other defendants would comment on the lawsuit. Castelli’s attorney advised his family not to comment about the pending litigation. The lawsuit does not name a dollar amount.
One of the other deaths involved a man in his 90's according to the Department of Health. No details on the third death have been released.
Investigators blamed the storage of pastry shells on cartons that had contained raw eggs and improperly chilled custard as potential causes for the outbreak.
Over the next week, the state received dozens of similar reports of salmonella symptoms, and all but one person had eaten zeppole from DeFusco’s, which supplied the pastries to other bakeries and catered events for the holiday.
WPRI reports that one year later, four new health inspectors have been hired, giving the Food Inspection Department a total of 11 to cover more than 2,000 food establishments.
The Director of the Rhode Island Department of Health refused an interview but, based on inspection reports, there have been numerous inspections at bakeries statewide in the past month, which found:
• "Pizza, calzones and pork pies stored at 65 degrees..."
• "Temperatures need to be 41 degrees"
• "Raw beef stored with deli meats"
• "Mouse droppings found"
A number of lawsuits have been filed against DeFusco's Bakery and some of those are still pending.
Others have been dropped due to the fact the bakery was not insured.
Last year, The Boston Globe reported state inspectors found a host of health violations at DeFusco's, from gallons of pastry cream left unrefrigerated for hours to pastry shells stored in egg crates tainted with salmonella bacteria. It was most likely the shells, which had come into contact with the salmonella-infected eggs, that ignited the outbreak, disease detectives said. The state issued an immediate recall of the bakery’s goods, and the shop agreed to close its two locations immediately.
The Boston Globe recaps the salmonella outbreak that killed two and sickened 75 others linked to DeFusco’s Bakery in Rhode Island in March.
State inspectors found a host of health violations at the bakery, from gallons of pastry cream left unrefrigerated for hours to pastry shells stored in egg crates tainted with salmonella bacteria. It was most likely the shells, which had come into contact with the salmonella-infected eggs, that ignited the outbreak, disease detectives said. The state issued an immediate recall of the bakery’s goods, and the shop agreed to close its two locations immediately.
“These were gross health violations, literally and figuratively,’’ said Annemarie Beardsworth, spokeswoman for the Rhode Island Department of Health.
In mid-April, the state ordered the bakery to remain closed until the violations are fixed. The bakery’s phone number has been temporarily disconnected, and the bakery’s lawyer could not be reached for comment.
The outbreak was discovered March 25 when a nursing home in Warwick reported that 15 residents and two staff members had fallen ill. Investigators discovered that all had eaten zeppole from DeFusco’s to commemorate St. Joseph’s Day, and the store owners closed the bakery the same day.
Over the next week, the state received dozens of similar reports of salmonella symptoms, and all but one person had eaten zeppole from DeFusco’s, which supplied the pastries to other bakeries and catered events for the holiday. DeFusco’s also had a retail store in Cranston, but health officials said the contaminated pastries all came from the Johnston store.
Unannounced state inspections before the outbreak, including one in December, did not find serious violations, Beardsworth said. But the most recent review, conducted March 25, found nine. The hand sink in the bathroom did not have running water, and employees reported washing their hands in a three-bay sink without soap or paper towels. The staff failed to sanitize equipment and utensils after washing them, and left calzones filled with deli meats and cheeses unrefrigerated.
Even worse, Beardsworth said, pastry cream filling used for the zeppole and eclairs was tested at a temperature of 125 degrees. “That’s a breeding ground for bacteria,’’ she said.
A second man has died after a salmonella outbreak that has sickened 66 people and may be linked to a Rhode Island bakery.
The state Health Department says the unidentified man died Thursday after being hospitalized and testing positive for salmonella. He was in his 90s and was from Providence County.
DeFusco's Bakery in Johnston closed down, and its products were recalled, on March 25 after a Health Department inspection found many food-safety violations. They included storing empty, baked pastry shells in cardboard boxes that formerly held trays of raw eggs. Tests later found evidence of salmonella in the boxes, probably from an infected egg that broke.
The number of suspected cases of salmonella linked to a Rhode Island bakery has increased to 43 people, the Health Department reported Wednesday.
Health officials said 22 of those people have been hospitalized.
Health officials said many of the people that were sickened ate doughnut-like pastries called zeppoles made by DeFusco's Bakery in Johnston. The pastries were sold at other stores around the state and have been recalled.
The Health Department said Monday that 33 cases of suspected salmonella have been reported, and 17 people have been hospitalized with the illness. The pastry shells had been stored in used egg crates, which could have exposed them to raw eggs.
Beginning Tuesday, anyone with questions about the outbreak can call 401-222-8022 from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. to speak with health department staff members.
Annemarie Beardsworth, Health Department spokeswoman, said that these cases were people who went to their doctors or the emergency room, or who called the Health Department, reporting symptoms of salmonella infection -- nausea, vomiting and diarrhea. All had eaten zeppole, éclairs or bread made at DeFusco's, in Johnston, in the days before it was shut down on Friday.
Those people were asked to provide stool samples for testing at the state laboratory; none has yet been confirmed as salmonella. One victim lives out of state.
Seventeen people were sick enough to require hospitalization. Beardsworth said this unusually high rate of hospitalization results from the fact that many people who ate the pastry were elderly and less able to fight off the infection.
Beardsworth said that DeFusco's Johnston facility had passed routine inspections in April and December of last year.
But when a nursing home outbreak brought inspectors to the facility on Friday, they found that the custard for the pastry was not properly chilled, pastry shells were stored in cardboard boxes where raw eggs had been, and a food safety manager was not on the premises as required, she said.
And the department now says the source of the salmonella contamination may not be just the cream used in the filling of the zeppole shells, but the shells themselves.
Andrea Bagnall-Degos, a Health Department spokeswoman, said Sunday that lab tests have confirmed 13 cases of salmonella so far among the suspected 23 reported illnesses. Thirteen people have been hospitalized; 10 remained in the hospital as of midday Sunday, she said.
The Providence Journal reports DeFusco's Bakery voluntarily closed after health inspectors found that pastry cream was stored at unsafe temperature and in unsanitary conditions.
Bagnall-Degos said the health department has now determined that the bakery stored zeppole shells in used egg crates, possibly exposing the shells to raw egg residue.