The Manchester, N.H. restaurant linked to an outbreak of norovirus that left 18 patrons sickened and one dead hasn’t had a mandatory health inspection since last January, the Manchester Health Department has confirmed to NHJournal.
When NHJournal broke the story of the deadly viral outbreak at the Puritan Backroom restaurant — co-owned by Democratic Congressman Chris Pappas — online records indicated that the last health inspection of the popular restaurant was back in January, 2019. This is significantly outside the health code requirements of an inspection every six months.
On Monday, the MHD’s Chief Operations Officer Philip J. Alexakos confirmed via email that the restaurant received its most recent “routine unannounced inspection on 1/29/19.”
In addition, the Puritan Backroom’s score was a disturbingly low 84 out of 100. Among the violations were “BARE HAND CONTACT OF READY TO EAT FOODS – Employees were touching ready-to-eat foods with their bare hands,” and “HYGIENIC PRACTICES.”
Norovirus is commonly transmitted in restaurants by infected employees, according to the CDC. The MHD’s post-incident report determined that at least one server at the Puritan Backroom was among those impacted by the norovirus.
While the incident occurred the Sunday before Thanksgiving and was investigated three days later, there was no public announcement of the outbreak or subsequent death linked to the popular Manchester eatery until NHJournal broke the news last week. When asked about the MHD’s policy regarding publicly announcing foodborne illnesses that result in death, Alexakos told NHJournal:
“The Manchester Health Department works on behalf of the NH Department of Health and Human Services as it pertains to the investigation of Communicable Diseases as outlined in NH RSA 141-C and Administrative Rules He-P 301. So, with regard to your question, we assist NH DHHS with the investigation of reportable communicable diseases and ‘Any suspect outbreak, cluster of illness, unusual occurrence of communicable disease, or other incident that may pose a threat to the public’s health must be reported within 24 hours of recognition.’
“Our investigation began the morning of the day that we received the information from the State,” Alexakos said.
This doesn’t explain why the public wasn’t notified of the deadly outbreak, or why the Puritan Backroom hasn’t received a mandatory health inspection for nearly a year.
New Hampshire insiders continue to speculate that the behavior of all the government agencies involved is influenced by the fact that the restaurant is owned by a Democratic politician in a city controlled by Democrats.
These new details are unlikely to deter continued speculation.
Rep. Chris Pappas declined yet another request for comment on Monday.