Outbreak of illness after wedding party sparks investigation

Glen Burnie caterer has a `good history,' health inspector says

July 12, 2000|By Jackie Powder | Jackie Powder,SUN STAFF

Anne Arundel County health officials inspected a Glen Burnie catering hall yesterday after receiving a report that several guests at a wedding reception there Saturday fell ill.

Besides examining the kitchen at Michael's Eighth Avenue, county Health Department sanitarians began yesterday contacting people on the 108-name guest list, said Robert J. Weber, the department's director of community and environmental health.

Weber said the department reached about 35 guests, some of whom reported having gastrointestinal problems. But he could not say how many had experienced the symptoms.

"We're basically in the fact-finding stage right now," Weber said. "At this point in time we don't know what they've gotten sick from."

Scott P. Wagner, vice president of Michael's Eighth Avenue, said the business is "cooperating 100 percent with the Health Department to get to the bottom of this matter."

"At this point, there are more questions than there are facts," he said. The restaurant is owned by Wagner's father, former state Sen. Michael J. Wagner.

Joseph Nutile - the Pasadena resident who alerted the Health Department to the possible outbreak of food-borne illness - said the bride and groom were among those who fell ill.

Nutile, the bride's uncle, said newlyweds Beverly Wallace and Scott McLellan had to postpone their honeymoon trip to Ocean City.

"It just knocked you out," said Nutile, 42, adding that his wife, son and daughter all experienced vomiting, diarrhea, headache, fever and chills after the wedding. "I finally started feeling a little bit better this morning," he said.

Weber said it was premature to make a link between the wedding guests' illnesses and the food served at the reception.

"It could be a virus spread among people that has nothing to do with food, or something the wedding party ate the night before," he said. "It's easy to jump to conclusions."

After learning of the potential food-borne illness outbreak, the Health Department sent an inspector to examine the kitchen at Michael's. Coincidentally, Weber said, the department had inspected the establishment Monday and found no violations.

"They do have a good history," he said.

Investigators went to the restaurant to collect food samples from the wedding reception, but Weber said it's unlikely anything was left.

The menu included meatballs, pasta, chicken, cold cuts, wedding cake and cheesecake, he said.

Sanitarians are asking the guests what they ate before, during and after the wedding and whether they are willing to provide a specimen for analysis "to determine if there was a single organism that made them sick," Weber said.

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