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Don't give honey to babies under 1 year of age

Honey tea comforts sore throats
However, don't give honey to babies under 1 year of age
National Honey Board
This is the season when it's common for throats to get irritated from constant coughing, and when tea sweetened with honey is an appealing way to soothe sore throats and flu-like symptoms.
Honey has traditionally been considered a healthful ingredient, with an important proviso: It should not be fed to infants under one year of age. According to the National Honey Board, this is because ''honey may contain Clostridium botulinum spores that can cause infant botulism, a rare but serious disease that affects the nervous system of young babies (under 1 year of age).
''C. botulinum spores are present throughout the environment and may be found in dust, soil and improperly canned foods. Adults and children over 1 year of age are routinely exposed to, but not normally affected by, C. botulinum spores.''

The Honey Board advises:
Do not dip your baby's pacifier in honey.
Do not give your baby honey as medicine.
Do not add honey to your baby's food, water or formula.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Atlanta (1978), ''the safety of honey as a food for older children and adults remains unquestioned.''
For this older group, here's a recipe for a spicy tea, made with honey, lemon, and either echinacea, an herb with claims to being an immune booster, or the classic chamomile tea.

Spiced Honey Tea
For each mug:
1 tea bag, echinacea or chamomile as desired
1 cinnamon stick
4 cloves
2 tablespoons honey
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

Place tea bag, cinnamon and cloves in a mug. Fill 3/4 full with boiling water and let steep for 5 minutes. Remove cinnamon and cloves and stir in honey and lemon juice.
--Add 1 tablespoon orange juice to each mug.
--Add 2 tablespoons rum or whiskey to each mug for a ''Hot Toddy'' version.
Preparation time 5 minutes

Deadly peanuts
By EMILY BERG/Staff Writer
Corralee Longdin gets scared every time she sends her daughter to school.
An innocent kiss on the cheek from another child who just ate a peanut butter and jelly sandwich could be the kiss of death for 5-year-old Julie Longdin.
Julie Longdin and her 6-year-old brother, Joshua, have a life-threatening allergy to peanuts. Just a sliver of a peanut or even peanut residue could send the children into anaphylactic shock, causing their throats to swell shut and kill them.
"We'd like to find a school that will do a peanut-free school environment," she said. "That way, the kids wouldn't ever have to worry about dying."
That's why Corralee Longdin wants the administration at Phelan Elementary School, where Julie attends the preschool program, to create a "peanut-free" zone.
Joshua is already home schooled because too many children at Phelan Elementary have peanut butter for breakfast or lunch, leaving him at risk of poisoning, his mother said. Corralee plans to home school Julie next year for kindergarten for her safety.
Longdin wants the school to support a peanut-free zone because she said some parents are not sensitive to her children's plight. The preschool is a separate classroom, and youngsters get their food from the cafeteria first, so it's a safer environment for the children. Peanut products are also not allowed in the classroom.
Yet in spite of a sign banning peanuts on the classroom door, reminders in the weekly newsletter and one-on-one conversations, a handful of parents continue to send their children to school with the deadly product, Corralee Longdin said.
"They say it's an economic hardship for them," Corralee Longdin said.
The Longdins aren't asking other parents to totally give up peanut products, just during school hours.
The mother of the two children has faced parents who don't think it's fair for them to have to conform to her children, but Corralee Longdin said she would do it for them.
"Had their child had the allergy, I would respect them and wouldn't want their child to die," she said.Principal Ryan Holman said he would explore a reasonable way to protect the Longdin children at school, but isn't sure that would mean making the 700-student campus peanut-free."To ensure every child doesn't bring a peanut butter sandwich would take a lot of work," Holman said. "Is it reasonable for everyone to make that effort?"Holman suggested peanut-free classrooms or even grade levels, because it isn't likely a kindergartner and fifth-grader will cross paths often."I think anytime we can do something for a child within reason we should, without impacting the other kids negatively," Holman said.San Bernardino County schools typically deal with severe food allergies by designating a specific table in the cafeteria for the student's whole class and making sure all parents and staff are aware of the problem, said Christine McGrew, spokeswoman for the San Bernardino County superintendent of schools.It's a balance of protecting the child without isolating them or violating the other students' right to bring certain foods to school, McGrew said.Interestingly, the number of people diagnosed with an allergy to peanuts is on the rise. About 1.5 million people suffer from a severe reaction to peanuts, according to the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology.Dr. Alan Gorenberg, an allergy, immunology and internal medicine physician, said he hasn't noticed an increase in the allergy locally. The number is rising nationally compared to other countries because Americans consume more peanuts, Gorenberg said.Most food allergies develop after a person has eaten the food. Some doctors believe some infants have developed the peanut allergy after their mother ate peanuts during the pregnancy or even when they were breast feeding, Gorenberg said."There is usually a predisposition to allergies in family background," he said. "There is a genetic component, but the actual reason is not understood."Gorenberg said the allergy can range in severity. An open jar of peanut butter could cause a person on the opposite side of the room to break out in hives.Whether a child would need a peanut-free zone to attend school safely would depend on the individual circumstances, Gorenberg said."In most circumstances elementary age children are able to avoid eating peanuts," he said. "The chance of a child having an allergy reaction in the classroom or cafeteria just from another child's peanut butter sandwich is extremely small."Even so, Julie and Joshua Longdin both know to ask if there are peanuts in something before they eat it.Julie Longdin said she always asks if there are peanuts in anything she is offered and will ask an adult to recheck the item."You should check again, just in case," Julie Longdin said.

BSE Risk to Consumers 'Extremely Small' -CDC Chief
Health - Reuters
Yahoo! News Tue, Feb 24, 2004

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The U.S. Centers for Disease Control said on Tuesday the
risk of American consumers contracting a human form of the deadly mad cow disease was "extremely small." Dr. Julie Gerberding, director of the CDC, said in testimony prepared for a Senate panel hearing that federal agriculture officials have taken steps to reduce the risk of humans contracting variant Creutzfeld-Jakob Disease (vCJD), a form of the brain-wasting disease. "There is a possibility that domestically-acquired variant CJD may appear in the United States. However, this possibility is believed to be extremely small," Gerberding said.
In 2002, a woman living in Florida was diagnosed with variant CJD but contracted it while living in Britain,according to the CDC.

A better test for mad cow
Taking tissue from slaughtered animals is now the only method, and its costs
can be high
Monday, February 23, 2004

By Nicholas K. Geranios, The Associated Press
SPOKANE, Wash. -- When the nation's first case of mad cow disease was discovered on a Washington farm, it took the slaughter of more than 700 healthy cattle to prove the disease had not spread.

That's because there's no test for mad cow that can be done on live animals, and there may not be one for some time.

"I don't know how far away we are," said Don Knowles, who runs a U.S. Department of Agriculture laboratory in Pullman that is working with Washington State University scientists to develop such a test.

"Data and announcements are coming out all the time," Knowles said. "At this moment, none of these tests has enough validation data behind them."

A test that could diagnose an infection quickly could help keep contaminated beef out of the food chain and cut the economic loss that comes from slaughtering healthy animals, according to a 2003 report by the National Research Council. The animals killed in Washington state, for example, would have been worth well over half a million dollars at market.

Mad cow disease is a public health concern because scientists believe humans who eat infected beef products can develop a brain-wasting disease called variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease, which has killed 153 people worldwide.

Quick detection also could prevent contaminated human blood from entering the blood supply, the report said.

The misshapen proteins -- called prions -- thought to cause mad cow disease concentrate in the brain and central nervous system, and the best test for the disease involves killing the animal and analyzing a cross section of its brain.

Developing a test for living animals should be a top priority, but it does not appear to be imminent, according to the NRC report. "Major breakthroughs are needed to achieve the levels of sensitivity and specificity required to test live animal and human tissues," the report says.

Scientists are following a theory that prions may move through the blood supply, and are looking for a way to detect them there, Knowles said. They are also looking for a genetic marker that would reveal when prions are present.

The Pullman researchers were the first to develop a test to detect a similar disease in sheep called scrapie, said Charlie Powell, a spokesman for the university's College of Veterinary Medicine.

That was the first and only test that can detect the class of diseases known as transmissible spongiform encephalopathies -- which includes mad cow disease -- in living animals, Knowles said. But it does not work on cattle, he said.

The lab also was heavily involved in creating the most widely used test to detect mad cow disease after an animal is killed.

Testing capabilities assumed greater urgency when the nation's first case of mad cow disease was announced shortly before Christmas. An infected Holstein from Mabton that was slaughtered Dec. 9 was diagnosed with mad cow disease on Dec. 22. It is the only case ever found in the United States.

Efforts to assure the public that the Washington case did not spread across the country prompted officials to euthanize 704 cows at various Northwest farms. It took more than a month to track many of the animals that might have had contact with the infected cow, and post-mortem tests revealed that none of those animals had mad cow disease.

With cattle at slaughter generally selling for $850 to $1,000, the 704 cattle sacrificed to make sure this outbreak was contained were a tiny fraction of the state's $500 million beef industry.

But the loss of export markets has hurt U.S. cattlemen. And the financial impacts of a larger outbreak would be staggering. The British beef industry was decimated by mad cow outbreaks that killed 143 people in the 1990s.

The issue of testing is a political football. While some consumers and U.S. trading partners have called for testing every slaughtered cow for the disease, others say that is costly and unnecessary for food safety. The cattle industry is also split on the issue.

These days, the industry is most interested in ensuring that any bovine spongiform encephalopathy, or BSE, tests be accurate enough to reassure customers in the United States and foreign countries that American beef is safe, said Michele Peterson of the National Cattlemen's Beef Association in Denver.

Since no accurate BSE test for living cattle is on the horizon, "the discussion industrywide has been minimal" on the topic, she said.

Current Food Safety Informaiton
02/24. Panel advises testing dead cows for virus [sic]
02/24. U.S. food sector may be vulnerable to attack
02/24. Beware of restaurant doggy bags
02/24. Gastrointestinal illness while travelling
02/24. Guest editorial - Business, regulatory and patents
02/24. Industry needs to address mounting perception problem
02/24. Feeding practices have to be changed
02/24. A threat, but limited: A clear-headed view of new BSE strain
02/24. New fears over GM contamination
02/24. 'GM foods are not safe'
02/24. China eyes GM food crops to cut farmers' costs
02/24. Irradiation of sweet potatoes from Hawaii
02/24. Advice: Test Downers
02/24. Japan confirms 10th BSE case
02/24. Illegal eggs continue to turn up in stores
02/24. Bird 'flu in the USA
02/24. USDA sees Mexico, Canada easing mad cow beef bans
02/24. Number of mad-cow tests in NW didn't reach federal agency's
02/24. U.S. Frustrated with Mexico on Mad Cow
02/24. U.S. panel sees no need to test all cattle for BSE
02/24. BSE Risk to Consumers 'Extremely Small' -CDC Chief
02/24. Don't give honey to babies under 1 year of age
02/24. Outbreak points out vulnerability of U.S. food supply
02/24. Local family works to improve nation's food safety rules
02/24. Family sues over E. coli
02/24. US says China accepts biotech soybeans, corn, cotton
02/24. Aylmer Meat threatens lawsuits
02/24. Produce liability
02/24. Strategic Diagnostics to Report Fourth Quarter and Fiscal Ye
02/24. Local family works to improve nation's food safety rules

02/23. Investigations into USDA's handling of BSE discovery multiply
02/23. Beware of Exploding Beer Bottles
02/23. Deadly peanuts
02/23. Grain allergy a risk factor for schizophrenia, study says
02/23. Mad Cow remains mystery, scientist tells Missoula crowd
02/23. Cats can die from `mad cow'-tainted meals

02/22. TCRC hosts forum on Mad Cow disease
02/22. A better test for mad cow
02/22. Kanagawa begins checks after discovery of 10th BSE case
02/22. NCBA applauds conclusion of BSE investigation
02/22. Kanagawa cow likely to have BSE [Japan]
02/22. Industry launches pre-harvest guidelines for E. coli

02/21. World Awaits More GM Crops as Safety Debate Rages
02/21. Mercer County couple pushing for improved food safety law
02/21. Crops 'widely contaminated' by genetically modified DNA

02/20. National case-control study of Salmonella Enteritidis Phage
02/20. Letter to firms that grow, pack, or ship fresh lettuce and f
02/20. Food Irradiation Education Activities
02/20. National Center for Electron Beam Food Research Offering Int
02/20. Beef Ambassadors at Cattle Industry Convention
02/20. New Shareholder at Linac Technologies
02/20. Food Technology Services' Stock Soars after Salmonella Scare
02/20. Minister's drinking water claim incredible
02/20. USDA claims about effectiveness of mad cow surveillance syst
02/20. NMA statement on non-ambulatory status of BSE-infected cow f
02/20. Millions of cattle must die, plan says: Cattlemen fear 'wall
02/20. Ann M. Veneman¡¯s Keynote Address:¡°Ensuring A Healthy Food Su
02/20. Food Standards Australia New Zealand¡¯s regulatory approach t
02/20. Food safety
02/20. Prion study to fill gaps: researcher: Program shouldn't 'rei
02/20. SuperSafeMark¢â Train-the-Trainer programs -
02/20. CANADA: Bird flu outbreak discovered in Canada
02/20. More evidence mad cow not a 'downer'
02/20. McDonald's throws weight behind cattle traceability
02/20. USDA grants approval for Clemens' irradiator
02/20. Cattle Confusion
02/20. GM crops nearing approval
02/20. Experts warn on Spanish eggs
02/20. Your View: Mad Cow ruse is hurting cattle biz
02/20. Douala City Council battles cholera with hygiene campaign [Angola]
02/20. Agriculture department dismisses unsafe chicken claims [South Africa] -
02/20. Albert Heijn removes salmonella chickens [Netherlands]
02/20. [Yersinia] Is lettuce the culprit?
02/20. Dirty Dining report: schools follow-up, clean and dirty
02/20. New Hampshire Health Officials Review Food-Service Safety Ri
02/20. Memo to Working Americans: 'Desktop Dining' Trend Demands Ne
02/20. MPs criticse FSA over cockle bed closures
02/20. Court upholds redress for farmer State fined over wrongful r

02/19. Slaughterhouse Owners Dispute USDA Claims
02/19. Farmed salmon survey -
02/19. Mislabeling fine: Canadian retailer Shoppers Food Mart is fi
02/19. UK: Britain will give green light to GM ? leaked report
02/19. Family backs mad cow claim
02/19. National Restaurant Association maintains commitment to ensu
02/19. Promoting food safety confidence: The new Irish Feile Bia ou
02/19. Safety alert for food firms
02/19. Feed Ban Compliance High
02/19. House committee challenges USDA handling of BSE case
02/19. Poland gets more time
02/19. Scientists discover new kind of mad cow
02/19. Gluten allergy largely goes undiagnosed, study finds
02/19. Govt. to Finance Sunflower Seed Butter
02/19. New strain of BSE
02/19. Changes sought for food permitting, handwashing
02/19. Hepatitis A outbreak prompts urging of sanitation
02/19. FEATURE-World treaty may become new focus for GMO debate
02/19. Chiquita Earns CSR Certification for Farming Operations in T
02/19. Questions about Washington Cow Remain
02/19. National Restaurant Association Maintains Commitment to Ensu
02/19. Food safety to come under law soon [Barbados]
02/19. California asks USDA to revisit mad cow secrecy agreement
02/19. Microwave Could Make You Sick

Current Recall Information

Prior Notice of Imported Food Under the Public Health Security and Bioterrorism Preparedness
FDA Updates - "What You Need to Know to Ensure Compliance With the New FDA
Speeches Page: Updated February 24, 2004
Library of Export Requirements: Updated February 24, 2004
Statement by Ag Sec'y and U.S. Trade Rep Robert B. Zoellick Regarding China¡¯s Approval
Statement Regarding China¡¯s Approval of Final Safety Certificates for Key U.S. Agricultural

Letter to Firms that Grow, Pack, or Ship Fresh Lettuce and Fresh Tomatoes
FDA Collection and Analysis of Food for Perchlorate - High Priority - DFP # 04 - 11
National Toxicology Program (NTP) Center for the Evaluation [Acrylamide]
Agriculture Secretary Ann M. Veneman¡¯s Keynote Address - Ag Outlook Forum 2004
Effects of Antimicrobial Drug Residues from Food of Animal Origin on the Human Intestinal
Adoption of the FDA Food Code By Local, State, and Tribal Governments
Information Program on Clinical Trials for Serious or Life-threatening Diseases
Announcement on Formats Available for the Interstate Certified Shellfish Shippers List (ICSSL)
OPPD (Policy) What's New Page: Updated February 17, 2004
Q and A Regarding the Interim Final Rule on Registration of Food Facilities (Edition 3)

Current Outbreaks
02/24. 400 Eagan High School students out sick
02/23. City looks into possible case of food poisoning

02/20. Oysters - not always aphrodisiacs: Despite warnings, more th
02/19. Factory meal lands hundreds in hospital [Indonesia]
02/18. 300 people fall ill on Carnival Cruise
02/18. Investigators Determine Cause Of Illness At Gund Arena
02/18. Intestinal Virus Keeping Local Doctors Busy
02/17. Chi-Chi's agreement awaited
02/17. Summer heat spoiling meals [Australia]
02/17. SA family pushes for poisoning settlement
02/16. Stars overcome food poisoning to win as Kiwis make a meal of
02/13. Food poison cases grow [China]

Current New Methods
02/24. Presenting potential new blood tests for vCJD
02/23. Lock chock detector
02/23. Bacterial Toxin Detection - Cholera
02/23. Microbubbles Make Shellfish Safe and Tasty
02/22. New Livestock Feed Test Guards Against Mad Cow Disease
02/22. Trojan Technologies Awarded Contract for Water Reuse in Cali
02/21. NDSU researchers say radio tags could track livestock
02/20. Checking grain in small batches
02/20. New Chromogenic Bacillus Cereus Agar More Sensitive than Traditional edia
02/19. Prionics rapid BSE test helps identify new strain of mad cow
02/18. Rapid diarrhoea test developed
02/18. Freezing Process Seen as Emerging Food Safety Strategy
02/17. e-FoodSafety.com, Inc.'s Patent Pending 'Food Safe' Process
02/17. Virus-free farmed seafood

[Yersinia] Is lettuce the culprit?
- 20/02/2004 - Scientists in the US have for the first time identified a fresh product as the source of an outbreak of human Yersinia pseudotuberculosis infections, a recent medical report says.

Scientists in the US have for the first time identified a fresh product as the source of an outbreak of human Yersinia pseudotuberculosis infections, a recent medical report says.
The article, which is due to be published in the March 1 issue of The Journal of Infectious Diseases says the outbreak was identified in Finland and traced epidemiologically to farms producing lettuce there.

Y. pseudotuberculosis, first identified in 1883, causes infections characterized by fever and abdominal pain that are often confused with acute appendicitis. The microbe is well known in veterinary medicine as the cause of illnesses in hares, deer, and sheep, among other animals. Y. pseudotuberculosis infections in humans are relatively rare, and while foodborne transmission has long been suspected, attempts to trace the pathogen to a concrete source of contamination in the past have been unsuccessful.

In October of 1998, two microbiology laboratories in southern Finland discovered an alarming increase in infections during routine surveillance of laboratory-diagnosed infections. J. Pekka Nuorti, of the National Public Health Institute of Finland, and colleagues from the University of Helsinki, the National Public Health Institute of Finland, and the National Food Agency of Finland initiated epidemiological and environmental investigations that would eventually reveal the source as contaminated iceberg lettuce.

In a case-control study, 38 patients with confirmed infections were questioned about what and where they ate in the two weeks before the onset of their symptoms. The investigation led to four lunch cafeterias where the patients reported eating iceberg lettuce. The lettuce served in those cafeterias was traced to four farms in the southwest archipelago region of Finland.

While no lettuce remained from the shipments identified from the cafeterias, Y. pseudotuberculosis was discovered in soil, irrigation water, and lettuce samples from one of those farms. The investigators suspect that the pathogen was spread by the feces of roe deer, which have been carriers of the pathogen in the past. Deer faeces were found in and around the open, unfenced fields where the lettuce was grown.

In an accompanying editorial, Robert V. Tauxe, of the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention, notes that the next step in preventing future outbreaks of this kind might begin with studying the behavior of Y. pseudotuberculosis in lettuce plants and attempting to define whether deer or other animals are the specific reservoir of the pathogen.

Such investigations may lead to better methods of prevention--from fenced-in fields to vaccinations of implicated animal populations or the use of disinfecting strategies such as irradiation--and give those who enjoy fresh fruits and vegetables more security about what they eat.

Either way it seems that producers of a number of fresh foods, produced in environments where it is difficult to fence out all wild animals, will have to give further thought to this consideration if they are to maintain required health and safety standards.

Slaughterhouse Owners Dispute USDA Claims
(The Associated Press)
Standing in front of their family business, the owners of a small slaughterhouse that killed a Holstein with the nation's first case of mad cow challenged the government's assertion the animal couldn't walk. The cow walked off a truck at Vern's Moses Lake Meat Co. and exhibited no signs of the central nervous disorder, said Tom Ellestad, who co-manages the plant. The issue is important because Agriculture Department officials who monitor meat plants target "downer" cattle - animals that are injured or exhibit symptoms of disease - for testing of mad cow. Critics have argued that the agency also needs to test healthy animals as a safeguard against the brain-wasting illness, which can incubate for four or five years.

Ellestad said Wednesday there is a strong possibility the illness never would have been detected had his company not tested it as part of a voluntary program to check healthy animals for the disease. "No one would have ever known," he said while flanked by his wife, sons, brother and parents. "Their premise for testing is false. The whole industry has been injured, and not just the meat industry - the livestock industry - because of shortcomings in USDA's policy." Ed Loyd, a USDA spokesman, denied Ellestad's claims. The department has said a veterinarian at the plant tagged the cow as a downer. "Our records clearly indicate that this animal was not able to walk," Loyd said.Loyd said the department's inspector general's office is investigating how the case was handled. The announcement came a day after a U.S. House committee challenged the Agriculture Department's claims that the cow was lame.

Ellestad earlier provided an affidavit of his claims to the watchdog group Government Accountability Project. That group provided the information to the U.S. House Government Reform Committee, which challenged the department's claims in a letter sent Tuesday to Agriculture Secretary Ann Veneman. Eating meat from animals with mad cow has been linked to a rare but fatal condition in people, variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease, although no cases have been traced to U.S. beef. More than 35 countries have banned imports of U.S. beef products. 2-19-04

NDSU researchers say radio tags could track livestock

Posted 2/23/2004 1:34 AM
FARGO, N.D. (AP) ?Research at North Dakota State University could satisfy food safety concerns highlighted by the United States' first case of mad cow disease, university officials say.
Researchers are working with tiny radio transmitters that could track the nation's livestock, said Phil Boudjouk, the school's vice president for research.
The technology has become a hot topic among members of Congress and officials at the U.S. Department of Agriculture who are searching for a better livestock identification system in the wake of the nation's first case of mad cow disease, discovered late last year. Proponents of radio-frequency identification (RFID) tags on cattle ears say the technology can maintain extensive data about an animal's existence, including its breeding, age, weight and medical history. The tags can be automatically read, sending their data directly to a computer database, by sensors placed at feed lots, slaughterhouses and other points along the chain of livestock ownership. North Dakota State is one of a few universities in the country capable of developing, producing and field testing the tracking devices, Boudjouk said.

The main component is radio frequency sensors, such as those developed by NDSU and Alien Technologies, a company planning to produce the tags at a new Fargo manufacturing plant in 2005. Under a cooperative agreement, NDSU and Alien Technologies licensed their prototypes for defense systems about two years ago, Boudjouk said. The same technology is being used for livestock, he said."There's been a lot in the news about applying this technology to deal with food safety issues," he said at a news conference Friday. "We do have the complete suite of talents to deal with the issues at hand." With the sensors fitted to livestock tags, radio signals can relay animals' identification information, said Joel Jorgenson, an engineering professor at NDSU. Researchers in Fargo continue to improve the sensors' designs and branch out into new applications, Jorgenson said. Marc Bauer, an NDSU animal nutritionist, said the next generation of tags will enable ranchers to monitor their animals' temperature and other health indicators, Bauer said. Commercial release of some applications could be "several years" away, Boudjouk said. Jorgenson envisions ranchers using hand-held monitors that read signals from the tags to check on their herds' health. "There are all kinds of interesting possibilities down the line," he said.

400 Eagan High School students out sick

Associated Press
Duluth News Tribune

EAGAN, Minn. - Nearly 400 students Eagan High School students spent the first day of the school week at home, most of them sick from an apparent virus. So did their principal. Monday's absences accounted for about 17 percent of the student body of 2,200, Assistant Principal David Lange said. Normal absences are about 6 percent to 7 percent, he said. Polly Reikowski, the school's principal, also was absent Monday because of flu-like symptoms, Lange said. She was expected to return Tuesday. Health officials urged the school to undergo extensive disinfection after several parents said something the students ate Friday may have made them sick, Lange said. Chicken nuggets were on the lunch menu that day, he said. Doug Schultz, a health department spokesman, said the cause was still being investigated.

While health officials didn't rule out food poisoning, Lange said, they were considering that the illness could be the norovirus, formerly called Norwalk-like virus, a "winter vomiting disease" that is spread quickly through personal contact. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, norovirus is a common cause of foodborne illness. A person with it can contaminate food while preparing it.Norovirus occurs most often during the winter. It causes nausea, vomiting and diarrhea and occasionally a headache and low-grade fever. Symptoms generally last two to three days, without serious or long-term health effects.