209 sick from church dinner; C. perfringens in roast beef and gravy; improper holding temps to blame

There’s been a rash of Clostridium perfringens foodborne outbreaks in the past few months. A catered function in Las Vegas, catered tacos at a high school basketball game in South Dakota, even health officials were sickened by a catered meal in Colorado.

A recent study by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) found that foodborne illness outbreaks resulting from Clostridium perfringens were often large and caused substantial morbidity from 1998 to 2008.

According to the researchers, C perfringens is estimated to be the third most common cause of foodborne illness in the United States, causing 1 million illnesses each year.

So it’s not surprising that C. perfringens was found in the roast beef and gravy that was served at a church dinner in Prince Edward Island two weeks ago, sickening at least 209.

The Chief Public Health Office continues to investigate the outbreak of food-borne illness related to the roast beef dinner prepared by volunteers of the Princetown United Church on Saturday, April 28.

Those preparing meals for church suppers or sale of food at any public event are reminded of the importance of reviewing and adhering to proper food preparation, handling and temperature control requirements.

C. perfringens outbreaks are often the result of improperly cooled food or food held at room temperature for extended periods. That was certainly on my mind as I took the remnants of Sunday’s pork leg roast and turned it into pulled pork with beans and bread, all made from scratch, for dinner Tuesday night. I ensured the temperature didn’t drop below 140F by monitoring hourly with a tip-sensitive digital thermometer, and refrigerated leftovers as soon as dinner was dine.

I also avoid potlucks.