According to Pinal County authorities there are now 38 suspected cases of salmonella poisoning linked to two separate events held at The Windmill Winery in Florence. The food poisonings have been linked to an event on March 18 and a wedding on March 19.
On April 1 the bride's mother called with the first report of sickness. Four participants of the wedding, another attendee reported to authorities, have been hospitalized.
Kiss the Chef, Catering LLC, a company that authorities say were operating illegally, catered both events. The company refers to itself as "a preferred vendor of The Windmill Winery," on its Facebook page. The winery includes Kiss The Chef Catering on their website's list of vendors.
"The two businesses appear to have an exclusive relationship but operate separately," says Thomas Schyer, director of the Pinal County Public Health Services District. "The kitchen was not authorized to be cooked in."
On Wednesday, April 8 Schyer and his team lifted a temporary suspension on the winery's permit to operate, meaning the venue is back in business but only under a 30-day risk management plan that includes fixing equipment and resolving any issues with compliance. "Most issues have been resolved," says Schyer about the lift of suspension.
Kiss the Chef Catering, however, is another story. The business has been provided a cease and desist order and "can't operate anywhere until they reach all legal requirements," Schryer says.
The exact source of the salmonella outbreak, while having been narrowed down to two or three ingredients, is still unknown and is undergoing further investigation.
"It's going to take some time to get it pinned down," says Schryer, who declined to name the specific cause or causes of the illness, adding that "the interesting thing is that the food was cook separately" for each event.
Ed Farmer, executive chef and owner of Kiss the Chef Catering, declined to comment.