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Tests identify ham as likely source of foodbourne illness

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By Walt Reichert

Tests by the Kentucky State Lab on food from Claudia Sanders appeared to confirm initial suspicions: The bacteria that sickened about 140 people at the restaurant Easter Sunday may have been from city ham.

A press release from the North Central Health District confirmed that the lab positively identified significant growth of staphylococus aureus in samples of city ham obtained from Claudia Sanders restaurant. The ham was identified with the same strain of staphylococcus aureus as found in some of the clinical samples submitted by those who became ill. The USDA is conducting further sample analysis on the remaining packaged hams to determine if this incident could possibly be a more widespread occurrence, according to the press release.

Claudia Sanders was shut down for four days after dozens of people reported getting sick, some within hours, of eating at the restaurant on Easter. During that time, the North Central Health District worked with employees on food safety, hygiene, proper temperature control and hand-washing. The restaurant reopened March 29.

Claudia Sanders manager Louise Riley said the restaurant was santized "from top to bottom." The health district, in the press release, acknowledged the cooperation of the staff and employees at Claudia Sanders in handling the event. It also noted that outbreaks of foodbourne illness can occur at any point and time at any establishment in the U. S. The Centers for Disease Control estimate 76 million people a year suffer from foodbourne illness, which often presents as flu-like symptoms of nausea, vomiting, diarrhea or fever. One person died after eating at Claudia Sanders, but, so far, no connection to the foodbourne illness has been found.