JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — Action News Jax investigated Cooper's Hawk Winery and Restaurant at the Town Center where "up to 100 diners" say they got sick from a parasite in their food and some had to go to the hospital.
Action News Jax investigator Ben Becker spoke to the restaurant manager, visited a local produce distribution center and talked to victims about what led to the outbreak.
Two people told Becker that they came to the restaurant hoping to have a good meal but ended up in very bad shape.
Cooper’s Hawk Winery and Restaurant said each dish is made fresh incorporating peak-of-season ingredients, but an ingredient made Lindsey Gast sick.
"[My] stomach [was] tied in knots thought [I was] going to die,” she said.
She was at Cooper’s Hawk with David Mosian as part of a local banquet In June. Mosian says he also got violently ill a week after the meal.
“The regular diarrhea medicine wasn’t working,” Mosian said.
Their attorney told Becker that up to 100 diners were exposed to Cyclospora, a parasite that can cause Diarrhea and other stomach ailments for weeks. It’s typically found in produce.
Becker went to The Garden Produce, a local distrubuter on the Westside, and they took him inside their cooler where lemons, carrots and lettuce are stored at 38 degrees.
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“We bring it in bulk and sell it, but we don’t go into that package. We don’t wash and clean product,” Owner Jon Wasson said.
The Garden Produce delivers to thousands of local and regional restaurants, including Cooper’s Hawk. He doesn't know if any tainted produce passed through his center, but says investigators may be able to track down where the tainted produce came from.
“Everything that comes in this warehouse has tags on them,” Wasson said.
Becker went to Cooper's Hawk to get their side. Cooper's Hawk admitted to Becker that it was
Cyclospora and sent Becker a statement reading:
“Unfortunately, food grade produce washes do not kill Cyclospora and they are not visible to the naked eye. We have changed suppliers for the ingredient in question.”
As for Gast, she says the gastrointestinal problems haven’t gone away.
The restaurant says employees and diners were impacted from June 11 to June 15.
If you have any issues contact their customer care line at 1-844-944-1444.
Cooper's Hawk sent Action News Jax the following statement:
"Cooper's Hawk Winery & Restaurant is committed to the health and safety of our Guest, our Staff, and our Community. We began receiving calls late Friday on June 21st from a few guests complaining of illness. First thing the following morning, we notified the Health Department. Through the County Health Department's investigative process, the illness appears to be linked to Cyclospora. Cyclospora typically comes from a fresh produce food item purchased through a 3rd party supplier. Unfortunately, food grade produce washes do not kill Cyclospora and they are not visible to the naked eye. We have changed suppliers for the ingredient in question.
"Illnesses are limited to a portion of Guests and some Employees who ate during the period of June 11th - 15th. This matter is currently being investigated by the local Health Authorities to support tracing the source of the food items. Those who participated in the investigation have played a valuable part in collecting the data needed to identify the source.
"The Restaurant was free from any ongoing exposure or risk by the time the first Guest call was received as all fresh food products are typically consumed or disposed within a two to five-day period.
"Cooper's Hawk continues to work closely with the Health Department to follow all necessary protocols while upholding our commitment to the highest health and food safety standards in our restaurants. Cooper's Hawk is also encouraging guests and the public who may have questions or concerns to reach out to our food safety/customer care line at 844-944-1444. We are addressing out of pocket expenses with those that may have been ill. We apologize for the delay in providing our statement, but restaurants need the Health Authorities approval during an active investigation prior to release to ensure the information provided does not impact the investigation."
Cox Media Group