Denver mission linked to outbreak: ‘These homeless are a hardy bunch’

Tough economic times have led to an increase of folks relying on free or subsidized foods from various sources including missions.

I can’t imagine how hard it is to be homeless or not have enough money to feed my family. Focusing on safe, nutritious food is moot if the money isn’t available to buy groceries. Or if there’s no home to take them too.

But as a volunteer food handler at a mission or food bank, having a good heart and intentions don’t automatically lead to safe meals. An understanding of risks and how to reduce them may.

The Denver Post reports that 40 of 340 visitors to the Denver Rescue Mission were taken to hospitals soon after eating a meal sunday meal. Results are pending, but it wouldn’t surprise me if something like Staph aureus linked to temperature abuse was the cause.

Lt. Phil Champagne, a spokesman for the Denver Fire Department, said people started becoming "violently ill" just over an hour after their 5 p.m. dinner.

First responders began arriving at about 7:30 p.m. and were wrapping up about 11 p.m.
About 14 ambulances transported at least two patients each. Lawrence Street has been closed between 22nd and 23rd streets while other people were evaluated outside the center. The street should reopen by 11:30 p.m.

About 350 people ate dinner at the Denver Rescue Mission Sunday afternoon, and it is believed at least 200 ate turkey that had been donated to the center.
Champagne said the concern is that many left the facility after dinner and may be sick on the streets or the alleys of the city.

Crews are now canvassing downtown Denver looking for any other potentially sick homeless people, and treating some on scene who refused to be transported or were less severely sick.

"These homeless are a hardy bunch," Champagne said."

Yeah, foodborne illness was probably something they could have done without.

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About Ben Chapman

Dr. Ben Chapman is a professor and food safety extension specialist at North Carolina State University. As a teenager, a Saturday afternoon viewing of the classic cable movie, Outbreak, sparked his interest in pathogens and public health. With the goal of less foodborne illness, his group designs, implements, and evaluates food safety strategies, messages, and media from farm-to-fork. Through reality-based research, Chapman investigates behaviors and creates interventions aimed at amateur and professional food handlers, managers, and organizational decision-makers; the gate keepers of safe food. Ben co-hosts a biweekly podcast called Food Safety Talk and tries to further engage folks online through Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and, maybe not surprisingly, Pinterest. Follow on Twitter @benjaminchapman.