Employees get sick after DOH holiday party; caterer sues over ruined business

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SANTA FE, N.M. (KRQE) – Shannon Quintana had a successful sandwich shop in Santa Fe called Bad Ass Sandwich Co., but last December he said his life was flipped upside down.

“I was hired to cater a luncheon for the Department of Health for 250 to 300 people,” said Shannon Quintana.

It was the Department of Health’s holiday party at their headquarters in the Harold Runnels Building in Santa Fe. On the menu, lemon pepper chicken, balsamic steak with red chile mashed potatoes and green chile calabacitas.

“None of those items are on my regular sandwich menu so I needed access to the event kitchen,” said Quintana.

However, in the lawsuit Quintana filed on Wednesday, he claims the Department of Health didn’t give him access to that kitchen although he said it was promised to him, forcing him to leave the food out at room temperature for a couple of hours.

“No reasonable accommodation whatsoever, no kitchens, when I got there was two, six-foot tables, I had 500 pounds of hot food,” said Quintana.After the holiday party, the state reported 71 employees got sick.

“These stories absolutely killed my business,” said Quintana.

He was then cited by the New Mexico Environment Department for not having a catering license, which he said the Health Department never asked for. Quintana also believes he got singled out, because a few Health Department employees made all the desserts for the party.

“So I got cited for not having a catering license, they served food also, they didn’t get anything that I know of,” he said.

Quintana said the state tested three of the sick workers. They found a common cause of food poisoning, but Quintana wonders if it could have been the desserts.

“Those tests cannot distinguish between foods,” he said.

Now, the once thriving business owner said he’s lost everything.

“I had to close my shop within a month of these reports,” said Quintana.

Department of Health spokesman Paul Rhien said they were unable to identify the specific food that caused the outbreak, but they believe it was caused by Quintana’s food.

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