An attorney has sued a state senator's restaurant over allegations of food poisoning.
Memphis lawyer Jason Wentworth, in partnership with Minnesota-based food safety attorney Fred Pritzker, has sued A&R Bar-B-Q's Hickory Hill location. The store is operated by TN State Sen. Reginald Tate and his wife Lashun Pollard-Tate.
Wentworth sued on behalf of Toby and Shandalin Taylor of Hickory Hill. The civil complaint alleges "negligence, recklessness...(and) personal injuries and damages...as a result of food poisoning from food served by the A&R Bar-B-Q located at 3721 Hickory Hill Rd."
July 29, environmental health officials with the Memphis-Shelby County Health Department confirmed to Action News 5 they are investigating the restaurant for food safety risks. A sign on the door reads "Temporarily Closed for Training & Restructuring."
In a television interview, the Tates told Action News 5 they've shut the place down to have their employees beef up on food safety procedures after the health department launched its investigation July 14.
"We're not here to make anybody sick," said Tate. "If it's something we're doing, we want to know. That's why we're closing."
"They've been very cooperative with the entire investigation," said Dr. Helen Morrow, Health Officer for the department.
Action News 5 has confirmed the department launched the investigation after the restaurant catered a family reunion at Shelby Farms Park July 10. Pritzker said as many as 20 reunion attendees have either exhibited symptoms or been diagnosed with salmonella poisoning. Health officials confirmed they are dealing with more than 20 complaints, all with the common element of eating food from A&R Bar-B-Q's Hickory Hill store.
"Cramps. Like someone grabbed your stomach and won't let go," said Toby Taylor, who attended the reunion. He said he was diagnosed with salmonella food poisoning July 14. Pritzker said Taylor and several others who fell ill after eating at the reunion filed the complaints that launched the health department's probe.
Health inspection records indicate the same day Taylor filed his complaint, the department ordered a surprise inspection of A&R Bar-B-Q's Hickory Hill location. It rated a score of 89 with no critical violations.
"Things looked fine," said Morrow.
"We're complying," said Tate. "But something is out of the norm. That's why were stagnant."
Tate and his wife, under the health department's guidance, are holding food safety training sessions with their staff. Action News 5 asked Morrow if there are any official medical diagnoses that directly link anyone's food-borne illness to eating A&R Bar-B-Q's food.
"That is part of the ongoing investigation at this time," she answered.
The lawyers and health officials are still awaiting the test results of a bacteriological examination by the state health department in Nashville. Lab workers collected food samples from the restaurant, including spaghetti, pork, chicken, and coleslaw, according to Memphis-Shelby County health officials.
Link here to the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention tips on food safety and preparation: