Food served at West Lafayette restaurant ‘most likely’ caused man’s death

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. – The Tippecanoe County Health Department says food served at a West Lafayette restaurant “most likely” caused a death on Oct. 25, 2016.

That person, 66-year-old Alexander Zdravich, was one of four people that got sick after dining at Agave Azul on Oct. 22. They had all reportedly eaten dishes containing pork, beef or chicken.

A health department report says the symptoms and rapid onset of illness experienced by the affected individuals were consistent with infection due to Clostridium perfringens, a common cause of foodborne illness.

Tests ran by the Indiana State Department of Health confirmed the presence of the bacteria in at least two of the people involved, including Zdravich. His cause of death was determined to be ischemic colitis due to Clostridium perfringens.

The CDC says “illness due to Clostridium perfringens is typically caused by consuming foods such as beef and poultry prepared in large quantities and kept warm at temperatures below 140 degrees Fahrenheit for prolonged periods of time.”

Inspections of the Mexican restaurant reportedly revealed several deficiencies in food handling practices, specifically the handling of cooked food at inadequate temperatures prior to serving. Officials say these conditions are conducive to the growth of Clostridium perfringens.

Inspectors took samples of food from the restaurant on Oct. 27 and submitted them to the FDA for analysis.

The FDA was unable to confirm the presence of Clostridium perfringens in the samples, but officials noted that “significant delays occurred in the testing process at the laboratory and may have affected the accuracy of the tests.”

“ISDH concluded that the most likely source of infection was food consumed at Agave Azul,” the report read.

The restaurant temporarily closed to clean after Zdravich's death, but it remains open now. Health inspectors are continuing to check in to make sure it's up to code.