Thirty ill after Peterborough school’s turkey lunch

Peterborough (that’s in Ontario, Canada) is the closest city to where I grew up.

It’s where the local CBC station (which included some excellent programming, see below) was housed; was home of the closest Walmart; and where the Petes play.

And in December a local elementary school had a Salmonella outbreak that was linked to a high school culinary program.ph_youth12 reports that 30 students, staff and parents fell ill following a turkey lunch prepared by Kenner Collegiate Vocational Institute students, although the specifics of what caused the illness haven’t been identified.

According to Peterborough’s medical officer of health, Dr. Rosana Pellizzari, there must have been some kind of cross-contamination during the meal preparation process by Kenner Collegiate Vocational Institute’s culinary program students. But she says there are no food samples left over, so it’s hard to tell exactly what led to the outbreak.

“We have no smoking gun,” she says.

In all, 270 people ate at the turkey luncheon on Dec. 4.

Dr. Pellizzari says the health unit was first informed of the situation when a call came in from the mother of child who ate the lunch who had become ill.

The health unit then asked for a list of students who’d been away from school in the days following the lunch.

According to Dr. Pellizzari, many of the student who were sick were complaining of gastrointestinal issues.

“We were able to identify that many (people) were made ill by salmonella, a bacteria that’s commonly found in turkey,” she says.

Dr. Pellizzari says no major infractions were found, although the health unit did make some recommendations, all of which have since been implemented at the school.

An health unit inspector also went to another dinner with Kenner culinary students.

Cooking for a large crowd can certainly lead to cross-contamination issues. Maybe the students washed the turkey before cooking. I wonder if thermometers were used by the students (and what temp the turkey was cooked to). Frank Bryan and colleagues would have had the students recreate the day and observed everything.




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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.