Restaurant group Eateries was awarded US$6.55m in damages on Tuesday, after the US District Court for the Western District of Oklahoma found food supplier J. R. Simplot guilty of supplying five of the group#;s Garcia’s Mexican Restaurants with contaminated “chile relleno” (deep-fried peppers stuffed with egg and cheese).

In July 1998, 32 customers at the Phoenix, Arizona, restaurants became sick after eating the products, and some were hospitalised with salmonella poisoning.

Eateries President James Burke added that the extensive press coverage of the incident in Arizona did unlimited damage to the business. “It’s been detrimental to profits for the last three years and will be until some point in the future,” he told Reuters.

Fred Zerza, a spokesman for privately owned J.R. Simplot, said that the company was still evaluating its options, and had not yet made any decision regarding whether to appeal the judgement.

The outcome of the court case has boosted Eateries#; shares by more than 22%.