ODESSA, TX (KWES) - Owners of Ajuua's Mexican Restaurant, an Odessa business linked to two confirmed cases of Salmonella and more than 20 suspected infections, announced Wednesday all staff will undergo food safety training.
Employees are required to receive food handler certification within the next month, owner Julian Rubio said, following successful completion of a course covering foodborne illness risks and prevention.
The Texas Department of State Health Services (DSHS) passed legislation requiring all food workers to hold the same certificate by September 1.
Ajuua's employees are also required to undergo Salmonella testing before being allowed to return to work, Rubio said Wednesday.
"We're still hoping to possibly reopen by Friday," he said. "Whenever we do open, we'll have a clean restaurant, proper training [and] we'll be ready to go."
The source of the Salmonella outbreak linked to Ajuua's remained unknown Wednesday, Ector County Health Department officials said, and could ultimately be traced to a patron or other external carrier.
However, a food inspection report obtained by NewsWest 9 revealed the restaurant was cited Monday for seven violations related to food contamination, trash disposal, food temperature, hand sanitizer accessibility, flies, utensil storage and restroom supplies.
Ajuua's received an overall score of 87 following Monday's inspection.
Health department officials made the following comments in the report in reference to the seven violations:
- "Must keep food covered in walk-in cooler."
- "Must not mix bacon with limes."
- "Must dispose of shrimp contaminated with basket."
- "Must dispose of oysters sitting in pool of water."
- "Must dispose of box of celery and cucumber which was sitting under raw meat."
- "Must clean trash from grease bin."
- "Must date mark food in walk-in cooler."
- "Must provide hand sanitizer for hand sink next to back door."
- "Must kill flies in business."
- "Must have spoons facing same direction with handles facing out."
- "Must provide paper towels for men's restroom."
Reta Lowell, a woman who was hospitalized for three days after dining at Ajuua's last week, said she and her friends suspected uncovered salsa may have played a role in spreading bacteria.
"Those of us who got sick... all ate the salsa," she said. "My other friends didn't touch it... and they were fine."
Lowell said she developed severe gastrointestinal issues and was taken to Medical Center Hospital in Odessa after losing consciousness in the shower.
"I hope this [doesn't] happen to anybody else," she said. "It wasn't very much fun."