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Tuesday, May 30, 2023

Salmonella cases tied to Brighton Los Amigos Taqueria on the rise


State health officials say 56 confirmed cases of salmonella have been linked to Los Amigos Taqueria. A food safety attorney believes the real number is likely far higher.

A microscopic image of clustered Gram-negative, Salmonella typhimurium bacteria. Janice Haney Carr/CDC

More than 50 confirmed cases of salmonella have now been linked to Los Amigos Taqueria’s Brighton restaurant, state health officials confirmed Friday. 

The chain’s Brighton outpost was one of two ordered closed last week after health inspectors flagged multiple issues at each restaurant; the West Roxbury Los Amigos Taqueria also shut its doors temporarily. 

As of Friday, there were 56 lab-confirmed salmonella cases among people who had eaten at the Brighton Los Amigos Taqueria before becoming ill, the Massachusetts Department of Public Health said. Of those cases, 37 are among Boston residents.

State health officials continue to receive additional reports of lab-confirmed and undiagnosed illnesses linked to the restaurant, according to DPH. 

Now, dozens of people who became ill after eating at the Brighton location plan to sue, according to Jory Lange, a Texas-based attorney who specializes in food safety cases. He said 43 people have hired The Lange Law Firm to represent them in lawsuits against Los Amigos and an additional 27 people have reached out seeking representation. 

Lange told Boston.com the lab-confirmed case counts from DPH are likely far lower than the actual number of people who were sickened in the outbreak. Some people don’t seek medical care, are misdiagnosed with food poisoning, or do not undergo testing to confirm salmonella infections, he explained. 

“This is a very big outbreak,” Lange said. “We help people with food poisoning [legal cases] all across the country from restaurant outbreaks just like this. Most of those outbreaks have 10 to 20 people getting sick. This one, though, I think there’s going to be well over 100 people who got sick, and possibly hundreds of people who got sick.” 

Salmonella can cause diarrhea, fever, and stomach cramps, with symptoms typically setting in six hours to six days after infection, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The illness can last 4 to 7 days. 

Salmonella bacteria can spread through a variety of contaminated foods, and food handlers can also pass it on if they do not wash their hands properly after using the bathroom, according to the CDC. 

Lange said he believes improper handwashing could be to blame. He noted that the reported cases have all been tied to the Brighton restaurant and not the chain’s four other locations, which could share food suppliers.

As of Friday, Suffolk Superior Court records showed three lawsuits filed against Los Amigos Taqueria for cases of salmonella allegedly contracted at the Brighton branch. Lange said his firm has also started hearing from people who didn’t eat at Los Amigos but got salmonella from family members or coworkers who did. 

The goal of the lawsuits, he said, is to compensate the infected individuals for their medical bills and the “horrible” experience of battling salmonella food poisoning. The three lawsuits filed this week each seek “in excess of $50,000 in damages.” 

“The second thing is, we want to get to the bottom of what happened in this outbreak, to figure out what happened and how this could have been prevented, which hopefully will lead to preventing future outbreaks,” Lange said.

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