Dunkin’ Donuts says Union County authorities are investigating whether plumbing problems might have played a role in the gastrointestinal illness that struck 12 of its store employees or their relatives in Monroe.
Meanwhile, Union County health officials say they plan to contact area schools Tuesday about the illnesses. Richard Matens, who runs the county Department of Human Services, said some of the employees’ family members who got sick attend local schools.
The most common reported symptoms have been diarrhea, abdominal cramping, nausea, vomiting and loss of appetite. Matens said that to his knowledge, none of the 12 had life-threatening illnesses.
Over the weekend, county officials asked that anyone who has had a gastrointestinal illness since Jan. 31 after visiting or eating at that Dunkin’ Donuts, or being in close contact with an employee, call their medical provider and also call the county’s Division of Public Health at 704-296-4813.
Three state health staffers are in Union County helping process those calls, Matens said. He declined to say how many calls have been linked to the illness as the county tries to sort out which calls might be tied to the Monroe shop and which are unrelated.
Health officials said the onset of the illness ranges from Feb. 10 to the present.
In a statement, Dunkin’ Donuts said the manager of the store on West Roosevelt Boulevard reported “a plumbing issue” on Jan. 31.
“The franchise owner took the required and necessary steps to clean and sanitize the restaurant properly,” Michelle King, a spokeswoman for Dunkin’ Donuts, said in a statement.
Over the next few weeks, several employees at the store complained of illness. King said Dunkin’ Donuts sent those employees home, adding that the company has a strict policy that requires sick employees to be sent home immediately.
“Because of the outbreak, there were probably some missteps along the way in terms of (Dunkin’ Donuts) responding to the sewage issue,” Matens said, declining to cite specifics because the county investigation is ongoing. “But the company has been following all protocols for responding to this matter since we have been engaged with them” as of late last week.
King said the store manager has been working closely with Union County health officials to find the cause of the illness.
King said Massachusetts-based Dunkin’ Donuts also sent an operations manager to the Monroe store to ensure that thorough cleaning and sanitation had taken place.
“Dunkin’ Donuts has very stringent food safety and operational standards,” she added.