The state’s public health agency said Wednesday it has found no “conclusive link” between a Spartanburg-area Mexican restaurant and a recent E. coli outbreak. The restaurant also agreed to identify itself for the first time.
The state Department of Health and Environmental Control said it has found no ongoing evidence of disease or public health threat at the El Mexicano restaurant on East Main Street in Spartanburg.
“While it is our policy not to release information during a pending investigation unless it affects the health of the citizens of South Carolina, the (restaurant) has voluntarily agreed to release its name to the public.” DHEC Director Catherine Templeton said in a statement. “We’ve found no conclusive link between the restaurant and those who have gotten sick during this outbreak.”
Templeton said the management of El Mexicano #6 has cooperated fully with DHEC inspectors, who found no substantial violations during the restaurant’s most recent inspection on May 11 where the facility scored an “A” rating. The restaurant also scored an “A” rating during an unannounced routine inspection in February.
DHEC had previously sent health advisories to doctors and hospitals late Friday confirming eleven cases of Escherichia coli. At the time, agency officials mentioned they were looking into a Spartanburg Mexican restaurant– but would not give its name out of concern that a supplier may have actually been to blame.
“We’ve willingly answered all questions, as well as reviewed our menu items practices since DHEC inspectors first approached us in the early stages of their investigation,” El Mexicano #6 Owner Martin Mata said in the statement provided by DHEC. “We’re glad that DHEC has found that our restaurant presents no health threat to our valued customers. This is the first problem we’ve had like this in more than 15 years in the business.”
Mata said the restaurant decided to come forward to protect other Mexican restaurants in the city. “We’ll continue to work with DHEC to get to the bottom of this situation.”
According to Templeton, DHEC’s investigation will continue in an effort to determine a possible link between these cases of human illness and a food product.
The ongoing investigation includes one lab-confirmed case of E. coli O157:H7, two cases of Hemolytic Uremic Syndrome, which often follows E. coli infection in children, and seven other cases of diarrheal illness. The agency says the most recent case began experiencing symptoms on May 3.
Most strains of E. coli are harmless to humans, but some can cause violent food poisoning. Symptoms include severe stomach cramps, diarrhea and vomiting.
South Carolina Radio Network’s Matt Long contributed to this report.