Foodborne Illness Outbreak Database

This database provides summaries of significant food and water related outbreaks occurring since 1984 caused by E. coli, Salmonella, Hepatitis A, Campylobacter and other pathogens. Read more »

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Chi Chi's Restaurant Green Onions 2003

Pennsylvania State health officials first learned of a Hepatitis A outbreak when unusually high numbers of hepatitis A cases were reported in late October, 2003. All but one of the initial cases had eaten at the Chi Chi’s restaurant at the Beaver Valley Mall, in Monaca, Pennsylvania. Ultimately, at least 565 cases were confirmed. The victims included at least 13 employees of the Chi Chi’s restaurant, and residents of six other states (identity of the states was not given). Three persons died as a consequence of their hepatitis A illness. More than 9,000 persons who had eaten at the restaurant, or who had been exposed to ill persons, were given an injection of immune globulin as a prevention against hepatitis A. Preliminary analysis of a case-control study indicated fresh, green onions were the probable source of this outbreak. Previous hepatitis A outbreaks had been linked to green onions, and had involved patrons of a single restaurant, however this outbreak was unusually large. The FDA issued a statement dated December 9, 2003, reaffirming that this outbreak, as well as others recently, had been associated with eating raw, or undercooked, green onions. The investigation and trace-backs by the state health department, the CDC, and the FDA, confirmed that the green onions had been grown in Mexico. The viral sequence of the outbreak strain was similar to the viral sequences obtained from persons involved in hepatitis A outbreaks that had occurred in September, 2003, in the states of Tennessee, Georgia, and North Carolina. Green onions had also been implicated in these outbreaks. Just prior to the outbreak Chi Chi’s had filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy. The bankruptcy court modified the automatic stay of proceedings against Chi Chi’s, to allow claimants to attempt to mediate and settle their claims, with the settlements to be primarily paid by Chi Chi’s insurers.

  • Outbreak began:
  • October 2003
  • Affected Country:
  • US
  • Affected States/Territories:
  • Pennsylvania
  • Organism(s):
  • Hepatitis
  • Vehicle(s):
  • Vegetable, green onions
  • Molecular Results Available:
  • Yes
  • Test Results:
  • Unknown
  • Location(s):
  • Restaurant
  • Brand Name(s):
  • None
  • Product Subject to Recall:
  • No
  • Total ill:
  • 565
  • Number ill by Case Definition Known:
  • Unknown
  • Number Laboratory Confirmed Cases:
  • N/A
  • Number Probable Cases:
  • N/A
  • Number Possible Cases:
  • N/A
  • Anyone Hospitalized:
  • Yes
  • Number Hospitalized:
  • 128
  • Any Deaths:
  • Yes
  • Number Dead:
  • 3

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