Against the advice of loved ones, I’ll admit to having frequented the drive-through Mexican eatery making the local news the past week. But fortunately for me, I wasn’t craving a carnitas taco or a bean-and-cheese burrito this past July from “Federico’s” when according to the county health department, an outbreak of bloody diarrhea afflicted upwards of 52 restaurant patrons. The Maricopa County Public Health Department linked the problem to E. coli resulting in the hospitalization of 18 of the 52 people that visited the restaurant on July 23 and 24. The contaminated food source, however, has yet to be identified.
And just think, after having recently posted about “Bad Mexican restaurants in a bad dining town,” such are the ‘fertile’ dining choices around here that I didn’t even think to mention the particular restaurant chain that allegedly had its unsuspecting diners doing the ‘Aztec two-step.’
But fortunately, for intrepid diners hereabout, after a brief voluntary closure, the eatery has now reopened and predictably, the lawsuits have followed. Now aside from the lawyers bemoaning what happened to their clients and now suing on their behalf, this incident underscores something we too often forget when we pony up to a restaurant table to chow down.
There’s a considerable measure of trust involved in the transaction between diner and restaurateur. We not only hope the food tastes good but more importantly, we hope like hell it doesn’t make us sick. Indeed, more often than not, we take that latter consideration for granted.
But we shouldn’t. I used to know a guy who had, in an earlier life, once managed a pub restaurant. And I’ve always remembered his sage advice, “Never eat at a restaurant without first checking the cleanliness of its restrooms. The front of the house always reflects the condition of the back of the house,” he told me.
And last month, a colleague took me to task for telling him about a recent First U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals case upholding the conviction of a Portland, Maine man for willfully damaging and creating a hazard and nuisance in the federal courthouse because of his epic gastrointestinal system failure. Who knows where the defendant ate?
But when it comes to eating out, one can only wonder whether that counterintuitive conventional wisdom about how airline travel is supposedly safer after a crash also holds true for food safety after a restaurant’s food has supposedly made its patrons sick?
I drove by the suspected Mexican eatery a couple of days ago and there was a queue at the drive-through window. Maybe, these customers subscribe to the conventional wisdom or as they say, ignorance is indeed, bliss. So go figure.
Photo Credits: “Hello 2009,” by Evil Erin at Flickr via Creative Commons-license requiring attribution; IMG_9356 by Bob Doran at Flickr via Creative Commons-license requiring attribution; Moctezuma II, from the Codex Mendoza (folio 15v). Moctezuma_Mendoza.jpg at Wikipedia Commons, public domain.