19 sick, 1 dead; Alabama Extension system ends E. coli silence, says meals served safely

I figured I’d wait and see what the Alabama Cooperative Extension System had to say about a foodborne illness outbreak at one of its events – it is Extension, which gets millions of taxpayer dollars to inform people about food – but nothing surfaced.

spongebob.oil.colbert.may3.10At least 19 people reported becoming ill after attending an ACES-hosted luncheon at Bridge Builders Church on Beltline Road on May 30, 2014. A private lab has confirmed three cases of E. coli and salmonella in the ongoing investigation.

Clarence Hampton, 71, died six days after the event. According to a family member, Hampton’s doctor said he tested positive for the E. coli bacteria. Autopsy results have not been released.

“The Urban Affairs and New Nontraditional Program Unit of the Alabama Cooperative Extension System under its Successful Aging Initiative was the sponsor of an SAI Conference held in Morgan County on May 30, 2014,” according to the unsigned statement ACES provided to The Daily. “As is customary, meals were served during the conference with strict adherence to all procedures and regulations for health and safety.”

The ACES statement said it is cooperating with health authorities.

“Over 300 persons attended the conference and were served meals,” the ACES statement said. “We have been made aware of two complaints that were filed with the Health Department alleging food poisoning emanating from the event.”

According to Michael Tubbs, executive director of Community Action Partnership in Decatur, a member of his staff contacted ACES a week after the event to report that some from CAPNA who attended the luncheon were getting sick. Tubbs said at least two dozen CAPNA employees and volunteers became sick, including Hampton, who worked as a senior companion.

cone.of.silence.get.smart“We were not responsible for the event, but we are responsible for our volunteers,” Tubbs said Monday. “I am disappointed that others did not address this early on, when they could have and should have.”

According to its website, ACES “operates as the primary outreach organization for the land-grant functions of Alabama A&M and Auburn universities.”