Photo/IllutrationThe Delicious Rokku delicatessen in Maebashi. A notice saying business has been suspended is pasted on the door. (Munetake Tanno)

  • Photo/Illustraion

A 3-year-old girl is the first confirmed death in an outbreak of food poisoning linked to potato salad and other dishes from the Delicious self-service chain of stores.

The Tokyo toddler died after eating food from the Delicious Rokku outlet in Maebashi, capital of Gunma Prefecture, said the Maebashi Health Center.

The girl experienced diarrhea and stomach pains several days later, and was hospitalized in Tokyo. She died in early September. A female relative from Maebashi who shared the food also came down with diarrhea and other problems, but recovered.

The O157 E. coli bacteria detected in the girl was of the same type as that found in 20 other people in Gunma and Saitama prefectures since late August.

While many of those fell ill after consuming potato salad, the toddler instead ate fried food that included shrimp and bamboo shoots.

The fried dishes the girl ate were produced by Fresh Corp. in Ota, also Gunma Prefecture, which operates the Delicious chain stores.

The Maebashi Health Center concluded that the girl’s death resulted from the dishes sold in the Delicious Rokku outlet where 11 people in total ate food contaminated with the E. coli bacteria.

The food poisoning case involving the Delicious chain stores first emerged Aug. 21 when the Saitama prefectural government announced that eight men and women who had eaten potato salad from the Delicious Kagohara outlet in Kumagaya, Saitama Prefecture, on Aug. 7 or 8 had suffered diarrhea or stomach pains. They included a 5-year-old girl who fell unconscious, but recovered.

The food poisoning then struck people who bought dishes at another Delicious outlet in Kumagaya, as well as the Rokku outlet in Maebashi. According to the Gunma and Saitama prefectural governments, a total of 24 people, including the deceased girl, have been affected in the outbreak, with O157 E. coli bacteria detected in samples taken from 21 of them.

The precise way the bacteria spread is not understood.

One factor, however, could be the tongs used in Delicious outlets. Each dish is on a big plate, and customers may pick and choose what they want from several dishes using the same tongs.

However, this theory fails to explain how the food poisoning occurred in more than one shop.

Health inspectors checked a food processing company in Takasaki, also Gunma Prefecture, which produced the potato salad, and also Delicious outlets. No O157 bacteria were discovered from machines or leftover food of the company.

The health centers in Gunma and Saitama are continuing their investigations.

“We will cooperate with the investigations to find out (how the bacteria spread),” said a Fresh Corp. employee in charge of the issue.