Goat was killed at eatery tied to E. coli
Officials close China Grove restaurant where employees slaughtered animal in kitchen
SHARIF DURHAMS AND ADAM BELL
SALISBURY --Health officials closed a China Grove restaurant linked to a deadly E. coli outbreak Monday after learning some employees slaughtered a goat there last month.
At a news conference Monday, Rowan County Health Director Leonard Wood said that on Friday, a former employee of Captain's Galley Seafood Restaurant on Main Street in China Grove told health officials a goat had been slaughtered in the kitchen.
Wood said the restaurant's owners confirmed the goat slaughter over the weekend. He ordered the restaurant closed on Monday.
News of the slaughter was "very disturbing" to him and the restaurant's owners, Wood said. "They don't know if or when the restaurant will reopen," he said.
On Thursday, 86-year-old Salisbury resident Faye Sides died at Rowan Regional Medical Center of complications related to an infection of a dangerous strain of the bacteria E. coli. She was one of 21 people who got sick after eating at the restaurant, Wood said.
Health officials said they interviewed 26 employees and heard conflicting stories. The goat was slaughtered sometime between May 11 and May 20, Wood said. Restaurant patrons got sick between May 26 and June 3, Wood said Monday.
Several of the employees are Hispanic, Wood said, and health officials used a translator to conduct some interviews.
Health officials cannot prove the outbreak of the intestinal disease was caused by the goat slaughter, Wood said. It will be hard to establish a link without finding part of the goat carcass.
"I'm not sure we'll ever be able to confirm the goat (as the source of the illness), or anything, for that matter," he said.
Wood said the restaurant's owner, John Kazakos, has cooperated during the investigation. Greensboro lawyer David Brown, who represents Kazakos' company, said employees are still being interviewed to confirm details of what happened. Brown said he believes two or three employees were involved.
One had been with the restaurant for a while and was a person "in whom we had confidence," Brown said. The other two employees were recent hires, he said.
Brown said he was told the goat wasn't killed "for some religious or cultural reason, but simply a desire to cook the goat and eat it."
Brown said the employees bought the goat from a local farmer and brought it into the restaurant after hours, Brown said.
The employees killed the goat in the kitchen, but took it elsewhere to cook, Brown said.
The attorney said the employees didn't use the restaurant's utensils.
Health officials announced the E. coli outbreak June 7. Officials said they learned of another suspected case of E. coli Monday, bringing the total to eight confirmed cases and 13 suspected cases.
The patients in Rowan and Cabarrus have E. coli O157-H7, the most dangerous strain of the bacteria. It can contaminate beef, fruit juice and other foods, and cause severe food poisoning symptoms, including damaged kidneys and bloody diarrhea.
The bacterial infection affects the intestines and stomach. People are usually infected by drinking contaminated beverages or eating contaminated food.
The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimate that about 20,000 people are poisoned each year in the U.S. by E. coli O157-H7, although most people recover in a week. A few hundred die from it annually, mostly children and the elderly.
The owner and his relatives regret what's happened, Brown said.