Holy Moly – 70 People May Have Gotten Salmonella from Fig & Olive in CityCenter

934 Palmer Alley, NW in CityCenter pre-opening

Last week we heard that Fig & Olive was temporarily closed by the Health Department over concerns for those who got sick with salmonella-like symptoms. More news from the Washington Post on the extent of problem:

“She’s now one of 70 possible cases tied to Fig & Olive, according to Marcus A. Williams, a spokesman for the health department. Six patients have been confirmed to have salmonella infection.

Fig & Olive remained closed Monday and has not set a date to reopen.”

27 Comment

  • justinbc

    Did they forget to put up “employees must wash hands” signs?

  • That’s sad– when we went in July the waitstaff seemed inexperienced, but otherwise it was a wonderful dining experience. I wonder if this will permanently tarnish their reputation since they’re so new.

  • the previous post had someone saying the closing was “overkill” based on the initial info. I guess not. FWIW, when I’ve had food poisoning it’s usually from the kind of place that people like her would consider “respectable”.

    • Yeah, and that comment was basically making it sound like the place should’ve stayed open because the hourly workers really needed the money.
      It’s likely true that they need the money… but an outbreak like this is a pretty serious public-health issue. Best to err on the side of not getting any additional people sick.

      • There was a really interesting article in the New Yorker this spring about salmonella and other foodborne pathogens, and the serious consequences they can have. It illustrates how industry really has the upper hand over government in the United States — European countries have rates of salmonella contamination of around 2%, whereas ours is 24% (for cut-up chicken pieces).

        • I didn’t read this yet, but I always wondered about this! I feel like there is ALWAYS at least one outbreak of salmonella or e.coli happening at any given time in the U.S. but when I lived overseas I never noticed there being an issue…

      • Emmaleigh504

        And staying open could get those workers sick!

      • I interviewed for a kitchen position considerably below what I should be doing. Their pay they offered was almost insulting. And I’m sure they grind people to the bone here. No way I’d ever eat there.

  • Wonder how brisk business will be once they reopen? I don’t know if they’ll be able to stomach the hit to their business.

    I’ll show myself out…

  • Alright now, so who poo’d in the pudding?

  • ChenChen

    what doesn’t kill you, makes you thinnnnner…..

    jk. how awful!

  • I just don’t see this restaurant ever being successful…after all the press this is getting. I don’t care what they say when they open back up there is no way I would ever go to this place.

  • We had a good dinner there back in mid August with no issues. This is sad as we liked the place, though it is a smidge overpriced.
    BTW – clientele seemed to mostly be local wealthy types who drive over from Nova or MoCo for a “big night out.” Did not seem to be too heavily tourist focused. So yes, this is going to hit them hard.

    • When we were there it seemed to be a lot of glamorous Europeans (didn’t hear anyone besides us speaking English), but I don’t know if they were tourists or expats.

      • I would agree with that. But they seemed to be the upper class diplomatic set, IMHO. The crowd really did not seem very touristy. Perhaps more business traveler oriented.

  • It’s a shame this happened and I hope everyone recovers speedily. I wonder if this will be the end to this place. I did not have a great experience the one time I went here for lunch. The atmosphere is actually pretty great and they put a lot of thought/money into it. The food was fine, but way too expensive. The waitstaff was indifferent, at best. I’ve yet to be impressed with a City Center restaurant. I am skeptically hopeful for Momofuku Milk Bar.

  • I wonder if this could be related to the tainted cucumbers that were recalled recently.

    • I’ve had the same thought. One of the earlier stories reported a woman who had contracted salmonella but only had drinks here. My first thought was whether she’d had a cocktail with a cucumber slide, or something derived from cucumbers.
      Real shame though, I really like place. I’ve never been for dinner but it’s one of my favorite post work drink spots.

    • Interesting point. There are SO many things that could cause an outbreak. Some of them would be the restaurant’s fault (e.g. not following sanitary laws), and some wouldn’t (getting a bad batch of food like cucumbers from an otherwise trustworthy supplier). I hope the inspection eventually clears up which happened here.

      • Yeah, people always want to blame the restaurant and for good reason. Most foodborne illnesses can be prevented by thoroughly cooking foods, ensuring proper storage/holding temperatures, washing hands, etc. And you’re right, foods can come contaminated from the supplier, so I’m interested to see the findings of the investigation.

    • I’ve wondered if it was the fig or the olive.

    • Great point. When we were there, one of their special seasonal drinks was a “cucumber cooler.” Two of their other top drinks on the cocktail menu feature cucumbers (including the main drink, The Fig and Olive). My GF had the special cucumber drink and fortunately did not get sick. They use cucumber vodka and garnish with a cucumber slice.

  • its possible, though maybe unlikely, that the contamination, if it happened at F&O was due to contaminated food that was meant to serve raw and not due to undercooking, improper storage/handling.

    Also, is salmonella transmitted from not washing hands after the bathroom? I think its just not washing hands/equipment or undercooking meat. I think e. coli and some others are the more likely result of not washing hands in the bathroom… is that incorrect?

    • Transmission of salmonella can happen a number of ways. As with any foodborne illness, washing your hands is a crucial step in breaking the chain of infection. Transmission can occur from raw or undercooked food products, raw fresh fruits and vegetables that were cross-contaminated in the kitchen or during handling, or even by fecal-oral transmission from an ill person not washing their hands after using the restroom. This is why there are foodborne illness investigations. It’s sometimes hard to pinpoint the source.

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