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  • Cases: 4
  • Hospitalizations: 0
  • Deaths: 0
  • Status: Investigation is complete
  • Locations: Pho Tai, 31513 Pacific Hwy S, Federal Way, WA 98003
  • Meal dates: April 25, 2021
  • Prior food safety inspections and current rating?


Updated June 3, 2021


Public Health investigated an outbreak of gastrointestinal illness with diarrhea, nausea and vomiting associated with a meal at Pho Tai on April 25, 2021.

The exact food or drink that caused the illnesses has not been identified, though this is not uncommon for outbreaks associated with a bacterial toxin.


Since April 27, 2021, Public Health learned about 4 people from a single meal party who reported becoming sick after consuming food from Pho Tai on April 25, 2021.

Symptoms and timing of illness onsets are suggestive of a bacterial toxin, such as Bacillus cereus or Clostridium perfringens.

Public Health actions

Environmental Health investigators visited the restaurant on April 28, 2021. Investigators identified potential risk factors for bacterial toxin growth including inadequate procedures and temperature documentation for cooling of potentially hazardous foods. Corrective actions were discussed with restaurant management at the time of the visit.

Laboratory testing

We do not have laboratory testing for the people who got sick. Bacterial toxin illnesses are typically short-lived and by the time people seek care, if they do at all, it is often too long after the suspected exposure to test.

Report possible foodborne illness

About Bacillus cereus or Clostridium perfringens

  • Bacillus cereus and Clostridium perfringens are both bacteria that grow rapidly at room temperature. These bacteria are found in a variety of foods, including meats, rice, leftovers, sauces, soups, and other prepared foods, particularly those that have sat out too long at room temperature
  • Both bacteria are commonly found in the environment. Contaminated foods could be stored outside of safe temperature ranges at some point prior to arrival at the restaurant, possibly allowing for enough growth of the bacteria or their spores, which then can't be completely removed by proper refrigeration and cooking.


General advice for reducing risk of contracting Bacillus cereus or Clostridium perfringens:

  • Wash hands, cutting boards, and counters used for food preparation immediately after use to avoid cross-contamination of other foods.
  • Food, especially meats, rice, and gravies should be cooked to a safe internal temperature, and then kept at 140°F (60°C) or warmer, or 40°F (4.4°C) or cooler.
  • Leftover foods should be refrigerated as soon as possible and within 2 hours of preparation.
  • It is recommended to put hot foods directly into the refrigerator. However, to allow rapid cooling, large amounts of food, such as soups, stews, and big cuts of meats, such as roasts, should be divided into small quantities for refrigeration.
  • Leftovers should be reheated to at least 165°F (74°C) before serving.
  • Use a food thermometer to appropriately measure food temperatures, both during cooking and cooling.
  • When in doubt, throw it out. Foods that have dangerous bacteria in them may not taste, smell, or look different. Any food that has been left out too long may be dangerous to eat, even if it looks OK.

More information about B. cereus and C. perfringens