Lawsuit alleges multiple people got E. coli at Ambassel Ethiopian Cuisine

Photo from the Ambassel website

Photo from the Ambassel website

Ambassel Ethiopian Cuisine & Bar at 12th and Jefferson was shut down in early march for public health violations following allegations that several people contracted E. coli after eating there.

Though public health records show the restaurant has addressed the issues, Ambassel is now facing a lawsuit from two people who say they fell ill after eating there in February.

According to Seattle-King County Public Health records, the issues discovered during an early March inspection included:

  • Improper methods used to prevent bare hand contact with ready-to-eat foods
  • Food contact surfaces used for raw meat, poultry, aquatic foods, or ready-to-eat foods not thoroughly cleaned and sanitized
  • Hands not washed as required
  • Inadequate hand washing facilities
  • Proper Consumer Advisory not posted for raw or undercooked foods
  • Food worker card not available or current, new food workers not trained
  • Thermometers not available or used as required to evaluate temperature of potentially hazardous foods
  • Food contact surfaces not maintained, clean, sanitized
  • Food not protected from potential contamination during preparation, storage, display
  • Insects, rodents, animals present; entrance uncontrolled
  • Warewashing facilities not properly installed, maintained, used; no test strips available and used
  • Non-food contact surfaces not maintained, clean, sanitized

The restaurant has met all health requirements during three follow-up inspections. But that is not going to stop two complainants who allegedly contracted E. coli from filing a lawsuit. One of the complainants, Sarah Schacht, actually contracted E. coli from Jack in the Box in 1993 and was represented by the same law firm then.

Details from the complainant’s attorneys at Maler Clark:

According to the complaint, the plaintiffs Sarah Schacht and Alison Cardinal dined at Ambassel restaurant on February 8 and February 15, respectively.  Both women fell ill with symptoms of E. coli O157:H7 infection, including bloody diarrhea, within 5 days of eating at the restaurant and sought medical care.  Both women submitted stool samples that court documents say later returned positive for a strain of E. coli O157:H7 that was indistinguishable from the strain isolated from other E. coli outbreak victims’ stool samples.

“It’s sad and more than a little ironic that this is Sarah Schacht’s second E. coli infection—she was one of over 700 people who fell ill with E. coli infections after eating a hamburger from Jack in the Box in 1993,” said her attorney, William Marler, who noted that Sarah became a vegetarian after falling ill with an E. coli infection almost exactly 20 years ago at the age of 13.

Ambassel restaurant was closed by the Seattle-King County Public Health Department on March 6, 2013 after the agency determined that food served at the restaurant had caused the E. coli outbreak.  During an inspection of the restaurant, the health department cited Ambassel for multiple critical food safety violations, including bare-hand contact with ready-to-eat foods, inadequate hand washing facilities and improper cleaning/sanitizing of food contact surfaces used for raw and ready-to-eat foods.  According to inspection reports available online, Ambassel had been cited for inadequate hand washing facilities—a critical food-safety violation—5 times since 2010.

See also this KIRO interview with one of the complainants.

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