Blue Willow in Social Circle reopens after shutting down due to customers' illness

SOCIAL CIRCLE --The Blue Willow Inn in Social Circle has reopened after temporarily closing down Tuesday when a number of customers reportedly became sick after eating lunch there last week.

Lou Kudon, program manager of the Northeast Georgia Health District, which has jurisdiction over restaurants in Walton County, said his office was advised of the reports of illness on Monday.

"We believe the food or maybe some of the serving utensils, something in the environment, was contaminated with a food-borne causing illness," Kudon said.

He said the Blue Willow was closed on Tuesday while the Blue Willow's staff sterilized the restaurant and threw out all the premade food items. Kudon said the Blue Willow was then reinspected before it was permitted to open again for business.

"We did this in collaboration with them," he said. "They don't want anyone to get sick any more than we do."

Kudon said a full-scale investigation into what caused the illnesses is underway and inspectors are attempting to call everyone who reportedly was sick after eating at the restaurant on Friday. He said the results will be reported to the state Department of Public Health and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

At this point, though, Kudon said it's hard to know what the cause was until the results from the tests of the organism are ready.

He said there are two possibilities. One is that the food-borne illness could have been transmitted externally, either from a member of the Blue Willow staff or a customer eating from the buffet who did not thoroughly clean his hands.

The second possibility is that that a food item could have been infected with an organism, such as salmonella, and the food was held at such a temperature that the organism multiplied and multiplied until someone got sick.

"Until we find out for sure, we can't say what caused the illness," Kudon said.

Those results will determine what, if any, steps will be taken in the future.

Over the past year, Blue Willow Inn has had decent health inspection scores. Its most recent inspection on Sept. 21 resulted in a score of 95, up from an 84 on June 28 and a 91 on Feb. 23.