Milk & Honey sued over Salmonella outbreak caused from raw unpasteurized egg use

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Newly filed court documents reveal Milk & Honey served salmonella-tainted ‘short rib gnocchi’ to patrons during August of 2018, causing over 20 patrons to fall ill with salmonella poisoning, and the Metro Health Department to deem it an outbreak.

Between August 3rd and August 15th of 2018, more than 20 patrons of Milk & Honey, a restaurant on 11th Ave S in the Gulch, were diagnosed with salmonella poisoning, according to the Metro Health Department, who formally deemed the incident an ‘outbreak’. Environmental, epidemiological, and lab testing linked the outbreak to the raw egg product furnished to Milk & Honey by a vendor, Gravel Ridge Farms. Specifically, they found the gnocchi was were only being cooked to 130 degrees, well below the required 145 degree required cook-kill temperature.

Documents from the lawsuit and Metro Health reveal:

  • Milk & Honey purchased unpasteurized raw eggs and/or raw egg product from Gravel Ridge Farms to be used in food prep, as part of their desire to source “local foods”
  • Milk & Honey used the unpasteurized eggs in a featured menu item: ‘Short Rib Gnocchi’. The gnocchi portion of this dish involves fashioning flour and raw egg yolk into dough, cutting it into pieces, and placed on a pan for freezing.
  • A plaintiff in the lawsuit dined at Milk & Honey in August of 2018, after which he fell sick with symptoms that found him hospitalized at Centennial Medial Center, which was diagnosed as salmonella poisoning.
  • At least 20 additional patrons were diagnosed with salmonella poisoning after eating the same dish.

An investigation by the Metro Health Department found a ‘lack of management oversight’ into the preparation of the short rib gnocchi. During their initial interview with the restaurant management, boiling of the raw gnocchi was indicated, however, in a reconstruction of events, it was learned that boiling did not take place in the actual kitchen production of the dish. It was being pan-seared upon each order, instead of boiled.

The Metro Health Department also found a lack of training to be a factor. The employee responsible for the final cooking and preparation of the dish was not unfamiliar with Gnocchi and was not trained on measuring or verifying final cooking temperatures of the raw gnocchi.

Taylor Monen, who is the owner of Milk & Honey, wrote a follow-up letter to Metro Health, which reads, in part:

After your visit on Friday, we felt that our past cook that evening probably did not cook the gnocchi long enough to reach a temperature that would have completely killed this bacteria present in the gnocchi…

I am not certain that I will be keeping it on the menu unless I am able to acquire pasteurized egg product that we can use to make these gnocchi noodles.

During the same email, Monen acknowledges the dangers of using small farms for egg sourcing, and acknowledged safer alternatives were readily available from food suppliers.

The newly filed lawsuit claims seeks claims of negligence in the amount of $575,000.00 &  punitive damages  up to $1,000,000.00. A copy of the suit is below.

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