Might consider passing on the green onions if your eating out

Wednesday, November 19th 2003, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

Some health officials believe Hepatitis "A" outbreaks in four eastern states might have been associated with eating raw or undercooked green onions.

News on 6 consumer reporter Rick Wells has details on an advisory from Oklahoma Health officials and the response from one popular Tulsa area restaurant.

There is something missing from a plate of enchiladas at Chimi's, the green onions. Nancy Gomez: "we are removing green onions from our menu items." Not because she believes there are real problems with the green onions, but she says she doesn't know for sure, so Chimi's will be cautious.

Here's what's happening. Last week there was an outbreak of Hepatitis A in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Three people died and hundreds got sick, that outbreak has been traced to a suburban Chi-Chi's Restaurant.

There have been Hepatitis A flare-ups in three other states. Health officials there are being cautious but think raw or undercooked green onions could be a cause in at least some of the cases. “There are no reported cases outside these four states including Oklahoma there are no reported cases."

None the less, the Oklahoma Department of Health has issued an advisory to consumers about eating raw or undercooked green onions, which are not grown in the US. “Mostly the green onion is used as a garnish, and in quickly lightly cooked dishes like stir-fry those kinds of things." So she says it's not a staple on any restaurant's menu. She has checked with Chimi's suppliers and they have assured her Chimi's produce including the green onions is US grown. "Our first priority is the health of our customers."

There is an FDA and Centers for Disease Control investigation underway, so she says until all the evidence is in, green onions are out, unless customers specifically ask for them.

Nancy Gomez is President of Chimi's Restaurants and also a member of the board of the Tulsa City County Health Department. She says concerned customers at any restaurant, should ask about green onions in menu items when they order, they can be left out.