Ice machine prime suspect in school poisoning

| 21/09/2015 | 11 Comments
Cayman News Service

Red Bay Primary School kitchen

(CNS): An ice machine has been identified as the most likely cause of the recent outbreak of food poisoning at Red Bay Primary School, according to government officials, but they are unable to say with certainty what caused the sickness. Following the publication of the final report on Friday, other possibilities were not completely dismissed but, given all the circumstances, it seems that the more than one hundred students and staff who fell ill may have been exposed to liquid refrigerant or the gas.

In the government report regarding the poisoning incident, officials stated the caterers had reported that at some time between 11.30am and noon that day while a technician was repairing the ice machine, there was a loud bang from it and a vapour cloud filled the kitchen when food was being served for lunch. Kitchen workers reported feeling unwell as a result of the gas leak. The steam table from which the food is served was ten inches away from the ice machine.

“Investigations show that there was damage to the compressor of the ice machine that would cause a leak,” officials said, adding it was inconclusive whether a leak of this type would affect the servery over the time frame that lunch was served. “The timing of the leak and alleged vapour cloud could not be accurately determined other than approximately between 11.30am and 12.00pm. The ice machine is out-of-use and in its current state it poses no risk to health.”

Although it is not possible to test for all types of food poisoning or bacteria, officials noted that the food was served at other schools and no one other than staff and children at Red Bay became ill.

“It is deemed more likely that the cause of the illness was linked to the chemical contamination from the ice machine,” the report stated. “This was the main differing factor between the food served and food service at RBPS and the food served at the Lighthouse School and George Town Primary School.”

The school kitchen has reopened but there will be an increased food sampling and the ice machine must be repaired and thoroughly cleaned and disinfected outside of the kitchen or replaced with an environmentally friendly unit. Public health officials also recommended the reorientation of the hot food serving area in the kitchen. Repairs to a kitchen door and the temperature gauges on the food holding units should also be repaired.

Final Report on Illness Outbreak at Red Bay Primary School- 14 Sept 2015

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Comments (11)

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  1. Anonymous says:

    Have they detained it properly in the RCIPS container at lock-up?

  2. Anonymous says:

    Maybe the ice maker was frozen up and they were trying to declog it with anti-freeze.

  3. Anonymous says:

    There are so many iguanas defecating all over the play area and seats etc, my bet would be botulism.

    ALL schools should have hand sanitizer at the entrance of the food hall and anywhere snacks are consumed, not just in the toilets.

    What is governments plan for controlling the iguanas anyway…there are so many now it really is horrid, a drive to NS or EE is like road kill central…not good for tourism.

  4. Ellie says:

    If an ice machine leak has poisoned more that 100 people in a short time frame this could be the first case ever.

    • Anonymous says:

      Do these people have any idea what happens to refrigerant liquid when at atmospheric pressure? Hint, its not a liquid for very long.

      Why are the officials, investigators, medical professionals etc. not giving serious consideration to mass hysteria? This is a well documented occurrence. Look it up on Wikipedia before you dismiss it as an insult. It would explain why the Lighthouse children the other side of a wall were not sick, although served the exact same food.

      “A common manifestation of mass hysteria occurs when a group of people believe they are suffering from a similar disease or ailment, sometimes referred to as mass psychogenic illness or epidemic hysteria”.


      • Selena says:

        7:45 pm
        no need to be a smarty pants here.
        No ice machine would have ever been installed anywhere, especially in schools if their malfunctions could cause mass illness.
        Attach links next time you bring an argument.

        • Anonymous says:

          Hi Selena, I am happy to post links, I missed the memo where this was required on CNS, but I did suggest looking on Wikipedia for more information on mass hysteria, where you will quickly find the posted text.

          Also Google/Wikipedia will also reveal that typical refrigerants boils at a very/very low temperature, (say around minus 40 Celsius,) meaning that either there was no liquid Freon present, or, that everything in contact (food included) would be frozen solid. I think that this would have been noticed.

          By the way, there are Ice Machines that use Ammonia as a refrigerant, and leakage from those could cause mass sickness, even in schools, but the smell would have been the giveaway.

          Sorry to be a “smarty pants” , but I wasn’t paid by the Government to issue an obviously bullshit assessment weeks later. I offered my original opinion on CNS within days of this happening.


      • Anonymous says:

        I thought mass hysteria only happened in the Brac

  5. Anonymous says:

    Sounds like complete BS to me.

  6. Anonymous says:

    Totally false!
    Exposure to liquid refrigerant will cause burns before it will cause nausea, and an ice machine does not contain enough refrigerant to cause any sensation of nausea.
    Grasping at straws – Try cross-contamination as a cause and poor worker hygiene. Sure they wear their rubber gloves, but to they replace them after completing a taste before moving to another? Never! Seen it a thousand times

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