N. Reading restaurant closed after nearly 40 complaints of salmonella outbreak

NORTH READING, Mass. - A North Reading restaurant has been closed until further notice after nearly 40 people complained to the Massachusetts Department of Public Health.

On Tuesday, July 3, Mass. DPH informed the North Reading Board of Health of dozens of complaints it had received about Kitty's Restaurant.

Officials say 39 people filed a complaint about a salmonella outbreak believed to have happened at the restaurant on June 23. Of those complaints, there were eleven confirmed cases of salmonella.

"People got catering and they got sick and the board of health seems to think it is the antipasto," said Debra Birkmaier, Kitty's Restaurant Manager. "Nothing like this has ever happened before."

Health officials say they have since gotten other calls from people who ate at the restaurant.

"We are currently investigating those calls to see if there is a potential for a second outbreak," said Robert Bracey, Health Director at North Reading Department of Public Health.

The Board of Health investigation narrowed the suspected contaminated food to the antipasto salad.

On July 5, the Board of Health recommended Kitty's close the restaurant for full cleaning and sanitization after another reported illness from a June 25 visit.

Officials also recommended the restaurant test the 46 employees who may have been working during the outbreak and clear them before returning to work.

"We've had our employees tested. We cleaned the place, we have had a professional company come in and clean last night so we are doing everything we can," restaurant manager Debra Birkmaier said.

On July 6, Kitty's was allowed to reopen after a comprehensive cleaning.

However, days later, Kitty's closed again.

The health department says it received additional information that forced it to close Kitty's Restaurant until further notice while the department continues its investigation.

"We've had our employees tested," said Birkmaier. "We cleaned the place, we have had a professional company come in and clean last night so we are doing everything we can."

The health director said several things need to happen before the restaurant reopens, which he anticipates will be next week at the earliest.

However, Boston 25 News has learned Kitty's has had recent health code issues including rats back in February. The health director shut them down a month later also for rodent issues.

"Then, back in 2013 we had to shut down a soft serve ice cream machine because it didn't meet state standards," said Robert Bracey, the State's Health Director.

Bracey said several things need to happen before the restaurant re-opens and he does not anticipate them opening until next week, at the earliest.

Anyone with questions or concerns relating to this matter should contact the North Reading Board of Health.