An Arlington woman filed a lawsuit Friday against Fig & Olive following a salmonella outbreak that closed the restaurant’s D.C. location for six days.
Laura Donahue said she remembers exactly what she had when she dined Sept. 2: a crostini that she shared with a friend, followed by a cucumber martini and a salad, then truffle mushroom risotto and a dessert crostini. She said she that she became ill over the next few days — experiencing chills, fever and abdominal swelling — and that she fainted after running a half-marathon.
The D.C. Department of Health closed the new restaurant Sept. 10 as officials tried to determine the source of an outbreak that hospitalized at least four people with symptoms similar to salmonella illness.
[Seventy possible cases of salmonella linked to Fig & Olive in the District]
The department, which later said it determined that at least 10 diners contracted salmonella, allowed the restaurant, part of a New York-based chain, to reopen Wednesday.
In a statement confirming the reopening, the health department said the restaurant had passed an inspection and had complied with all the food safety requirements the department had imposed.
The outbreak caused more than 60 people to become ill — including residents of five states in addition to the District — and 150 more cases are being investigated, the agency said in a news release.
Donahue, 36, got the results of her culture Thursday — it was positive for salmonella, she said.
“The people responsible need to be held accountable,” she said of the suit in a telephone interview Friday. “There’s myself and there’s the pain — this is what I can do. This is all I can do.”
A copy of the woman’s complaint said it was filed in U.S. District Court. It said she was seeking damages, but no specific amount was given.
A local spokeswoman for Fig & Olive said Friday that the company has not issued a statement and was unavailable to comment.
Based on interviews with affected diners and on-site observations of food-handling procedures, health officials have said they concluded that two items on the restaurant’s menu — truffle fries and mushroom croquettes — may have led to the salmonella outbreak.
LaQuandra Nesbitt, director of the health department, said both items have been removed from the menu.
She also said the restaurant was “very cooperative, responsive and transparent throughout the process” of trying to ensure food safety.
She said the restaurant complied with the department’s directives.
In addition, the health department’s statement said the restaurant has “removed all conditions that may have contributed to the salmonella outbreak.”
[D.C.’s Fig & Olive allowed to reopen after diners contracted salmonella]
Bill Marler, Donahue’s attorney, said he wonders whether what happened in Washington could be connected to a multi-state salmonella outbreak linked to cucumbers.
“There’s usually some connection,” said Marler, who added that he believes the suit will unlock the mystery of what caused the Fig & Olive incident.
D.C. health officials, however, have said that they did not think the local cases were related to a current salmonella outbreak that was tied to Mexican cucumbers.
As of Sept. 16, no food samples from the city’s Fig & Olive outlet had been found to be tainted with the harmful bacteria.
The chain’s president has said an independent food safety company has certified that the D.C. restaurant’s “standards of food preparation and service are of the highest caliber.”
The executive said “we are truly sorry that this happened,” adding that “it strikes at the heart of everything we stand for and hope to achieve.”
Tim Carman contributed to this report.