COVINGTON, Ga. — The owner of a downtown restaurant cited after a salmonella outbreak said no sources of foodborne illnesses were found after extensive testing.
Plain Nuts Deli & Catering closed briefly in May after several people became sick. The Gwinnett, Newton and Rockdale County Health Department investigated the outbreak of gastrointestinal illness.
The Covington News publishes the latest scores from Newton County restaurant inspections monthly. Click here for the scores from May inspections.
Now, owner Jim Williamson says he has a “whole new respect for the system” and urges diners to trust any restaurant in the city.
Plain Nuts made news when the Health Department got its first report on May 4 from attendees of a closed, invitation-only event the restaurant catered in Newton County on April 28.
During the investigation, additional cases of gastrointestinal illness including one confirmed case of salmonella were reported among people who did not attend the April 28 event but had consumed food prepared by the same caterer.
On May 15, illnesses were reported among people who attended a May 9 event in Social Circle. A survey revealed food prepared by Plain Nuts was a “potential source of exposure,” according to a Health Department officer.
In an advertisement in this weekend’s Covington News, Williamson, the restaurant’s longtime owner, said he “voluntarily closed” Plain Nuts until a source of the outbreak could be identified.
“Incoming fresh food products were tested, food I was serving to a slammed deli that day was tested, and my full-time employees who underwent health screening (sic), and my food handling techniques, all came back with totally negative results,” Williamson wrote.
Plain Nuts reopened May 29 at its location off the downtown Square, at 1136 Monticello St. SW.
Williamson said he is proud of his long-tenured employees and the fresh food they serve.
“What happened on a hot day in April with three other food services and porta-potties just can’t be determined,” Williamson wrote. “The said thing is, it’s damaged friendships, and caused friends to argue amongst themselves.
“The support of my wonderful friends and family, my pastor and church family, and from my community has been overwhelming. To know me is to know someone who would never want to cause anyone harm. There has been so much said that’s just not based in truth.”
The Georgia Department of Public Health gave Plain Nuts a score of 91 out of a possible 100 on its latest routine inspection, on May 7. The issues that led to points being docked were corrected immediately.
The restaurant was cited for having a package of raw beef sitting directly on top of a package of raw chicken. A manager rearranged the items so they were stored properly. Also, packages of frozen raw chicken, raw beef and bacon were stored together, without separation, in the freezer. The manager rearranged them.
Washed lettuce and washed broccoli were stored with unwashed produce in the cooler. The manager rearranged items so they were stored properly.The restaurant scored a 63 on a routine inspection on April 17, 2017, but a follow-up visit 10 days later merited a 97. Two subsequent inspections in 2017 merited “A” scores as well.