KIRKLAND, Wash. - King County Health Officials have shutdown Tacos El Guero in Kirkland after 34 people reported getting food poisoning after eating at one of their food trucks.
The incident reportedly happened Thursday at a private event. Public Health Officials say the customers had either Bacillus cereus or Clostridium perfringens – a fast acting bug. Health Officials say the bacteria grows rapidly at room temperatures. It can be found in meat, rice, leftovers, sauces, soups and anything else that’s sat out too long.
Food Safety Attorney Bill Marler, known for the Jack in the Box E. coli Outbreak in the early 90s says this was a failure of food safety protocols.
"Everyone knows you wash your hands, you keep hot things. Hot and cold things cold and that's how you avoid a lot of foodborne illness," Marler said. "Here, most likely they were reheating leftovers from the day before because that's what allows these toxins to perk."
Safety inspectors haven’t been able to pinpoint what exactly made the dozens of people sick; while that’s common in these types of outbreaks, not having a permit isn’t.
Health reports say the employees were serving food out of a truck that didn’t have one.
"That doesn't necessarily mean that it's going to be a problem but if somebody's going to skirt the law there are likely to not pay attention to details," Marler said.
While none of the 34 people have needed hospitalization, Marler says this could've been worse.
"It's not an easy business, but you've got to have firmly in your back your mind and that a little kid could eat there, a pregnant woman could eat there; someone who has cancer could eat there and those people are the most vulnerable people to these pathogens." Marler said.
Every year 1 in 6 people get sick from foodborne illnesses, according to the CDC. The attorney says outbreaks like these are adding up for several reasons: and end of COVID hibernation and food industry turnover.
"If you don't have well-trained people making sure that 'oh, we need to throw that away we can't reuse that tomorrow' or ‘we got to keep it at the right temperature or we need to get it into the refrigerator as quickly as possible to retard bacterial and viral growth’ if you don't have those people - you can have these problems," Marler said.
FOX 13 spoke with a Tacos El Guero employee who says they donate meals to a sports team every year – the only difference was they gave the team Horchata. The Mexican drink has milk, the employee believes that's what may have made them fall ill. The employee said they've also replaced a walk-in refrigerator and a dishwasher. The Health Department has yet to inspect the restaurant and determine if and when they're allowed to reopen.
Fox 13 also reached out to the owners and are waiting to hear back.