Casserole blamed for inmate illness outbreak

Source of Article:


Tue Feb 24, 2009 3:05pm EST


NEW YORK (Reuters Health) - An improperly prepared casserole appears to be the culprit in a food-poisoning outbreak that sickened 200 inmates at a Wisconsin jail, health officials say.

Tests showed that the casserole had been contaminated with the bacterium Clostridium perfringens, according to investigators with the state public health department and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

C. perfringens bacteria can accumulate when food, usually meat, is improperly handled; small numbers of the organism may be present after food is cooked, and if leftovers are not cooled and stored properly, the bacteria can multiply to food-poisoning levels.

The bacteria typically cause abdominal cramps and diarrhea within 6 to 24 hours of ingestion.

In the jail outbreak, a casserole made from leftover ground beef and macaroni was found to harbor C. perfringens bacteria. The leftovers may not have been cooled properly for storage or reheated adequately, health officials report in the CDC's Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.

C. perfringens causes about 250,000 cases of diarrheal illness in the U.S. each year, according to the CDC. It is particularly common in institutional settings, where large amounts of food are typically prepared hours before serving.

It is essential, according to the CDC, that food that is not going to be eaten right away be quickly and adequately cooled, and then reheated sufficiently.

The agency advises that leftover meat, or other foods cooked with meat, not be reused unless "stringent food-preparation procedures are followed."

SOURCE: Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, February 20, 2009.


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