Sickness breaks out at Red Bay Primary

| 02/09/2015 | 22 Comments

Cayman News Service(CNS) Updated: An outbreak of possible food poisoning at the Red Bay Primary School has triggered a major clean-up operation at the canteen during the first week back to school. Education officials said some students and teachers were taken ill after lunch Wednesday and the Department of Environmental Health was called to investigate by caterers, Mise en Place.

A statement from the caterers Thursday indicated that well over 100 students and teachers had been affected. The food prepared at the site was also served at the Lighthouse School and George Town Primary School but there were no reports of illness at those schools.

A gas leak from an ice machine was discovered in the serving area at Red Bay and investigations are underway to determine if this may have impacted those who were taken ill. But Mise en Place said that the small amount of Freon being leaked into the environment from an ice machine would not cause the symptoms experienced by the people who fell ill. However, the caterers also stated that in thirteen years producing over one and a half million meals for school children in Cayman, there have been no incidents of foodborne illness from anything they have served.

Both the caterers and government officials said they do not yet know the cause of the illness. In their release Wednesday, education officials said that parents should seek medical attention for their children if symptoms of vomiting and cramps persist. “The Department of Education Services, Department of Environmental Health, the school and the canteen provider are all working together to ensure that the kitchen preparation and serving areas are fit for use, and the classrooms are ready for classes on Thursday.”

A thorough cleaning of the classrooms at Red Bay Primary School and the Mary Miller Hall took place in the evening and the kitchen and serving areas at the school will be closed to allow additional tests to be carried out by the DEH. Breakfast, snacks and lunch meals will still be available for all three sites — Red Bay Primary School, Lighthouse School and George Town Primary School — on Thursday.

“Following further investigations by the Department of Environmental Health, additional information will be circulated regarding this matter,” officials added.

In a statement Thursday Mis en Place, MD Sean Collins said that a Department of Environmental Health representative was on site in the kitchen facility they operate at the school.

“He was fortunately able to gather samples of the two lunch items served, chicken tenders and fried fish served with French fries and coleslaw. He also took swabs of surfaces as well as the hands of our staff. We await the results of these tests,” he said.

Collins noted that the food was prepared in exactly the same way as it has been for hundreds of meals at the location.

“During the lunch period we served 224 chicken tender meals and 30 fried fish meals to students at Red Bay Primary. We also served 40 chicken tender meals and 18 fried fish meals to the Lighthouse School,” he stated. “We also delivered 174 chicken meals and 15 fish meals prepared at the same facility to George Town Primary School. No incidents of illness have been reported to us at this time from either of those schools. The remaining seven school canteens we operate also all reported no incidents. All six of our staff posted in the Red Bay kitchen also ate lunch and had no symptoms of illness.”

Pointing to the food safety record of the catering firm, Collins said all its staff have the appropriate and current food safety certificates issued from DEH. “We can assure all our customers that this is an isolated incident and has not yet even been confirmed to us that it is food borne,” he added.

Collins said the Red Bay Primary kitchen is a clean and sanitary environment and receives a thorough clean and sanitizing by the team each day of operation, as he invited anyone interested to visit the facility.

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Category: Health, health and safety

Comments (22)

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  1. Anonymous says:

    I think that government needs to employ its own chefs cooks food handlers etc and that way they can vet the people that are cooking for our children and by eliminating the catering company it will reduce costs to the parents create jobs and it should make a profit for the government purse.

  2. Anonymous says:

    Perhaps its ciguatera – fish poisoning! Fish was one of the meals served!

    • Anonymous says:

      My considered opinion of the cause?

      The servers ate the same food, no sickness

      The Lighthouse kids ate the ame food (seperated by a wall) , no sickmess

      Kids at another school ate food prepared at Red Bay – no sickness

      Freon leaking from an ice machine? Give me a break!

      Conclusion – two or three likely unrelated cases of vomiting, followed by mass hysteria.

      Truthseeker

  3. Anonymous says:

    You can easily have contamination at one location due to poor food handling whilst having no contamination at secondary locations. Anyone trained in the food service industry knows this. Cross contamination can occur from knives, cutting boards, dirty hands, utensils, the list goes on and on.

  4. Anonymous says:

    Really? Caterers for public schools? Wow, never heard of such a thing, that seems pretty posh.

    • Inspector Clouseau says:

      Each school kitchen has an independent chef. The private schools do the same I assume so it’s really not “posh” as you make it seem.

      • Kamala says:

        I don’t think chicken nuggets, french fries and fried fish count as “posh” at all. Come on Mr. Collins, can’t you do something like Jamie Oliver has done with the school foods and create something healthy. No wonder Cayman children just seem to be getting wider instead of taller….Just a future strain on our already challenged health care…increased obesity and diabetes here we come.

        • Sean Collins says:

          Kamala, please email me if you wish to have a copy of the full monthly school menu. This happened to be one of two “treat days” in the month. All other days have only healthy lunch options. sean@catering.ky

  5. Anonymous says:

    Is this food poisoning or Norovirus? If it’s the latter you can probably trace it back to one of the food handlers – that’s what happens on cruise ships.

  6. Tom Collins says:

    This reads like a deflectionary press release from a certain catering firm.

    • Sean says:

      I assume you are talking about my catering firm-Mise en Place, who have safely served school children in our community for eight years, up to 2500 meals per day. We are not deflecting anything, the opposite, we called in the inspector immediately to take food samples and swab surfaces and staff. I didn’t release any form of statement until 12:30pm yesterday so when you posted your comment this was all based on a press release from the education department.

  7. Della J Watler Marte. says:

    My question is ? Do all workers in the kitchen have they taken the class and passed the exam for Food handling????? This is the question and every parent should ask and demand an answer to.!!!!! Most likely they wont get it.

    • Sean Collins says:

      Della, the answer to your question is yes. Every member of the food handling team at Mise en Place has current food handling certificates. Would you like to see them? email me and I’ll send you copies sean@catering.ky

  8. Anonymous says:

    ‘Breakfast, snacks and lunch meals will still be available for all three sites — Red Bay Primary School, Lighthouse School and George Town Primary School — on Thursday.’

    Ummm. I think I’ll pack a home made lunch for the kids on Thursday….

  9. Anonymous says:

    Heard it was over 130 people affected by this….Just hoping and praying it not stale food they served these people..Hope they find the source of the problem as this school need some help bathrooms need proper cleaning daily…water fountains need some serious fixing /cleaning / sterilizing daily ..I will stop there…

    • Anonymous says:

      Stale food is unlikely. Cross contamination will be the cause due to poor hygiene standards.

    • Della J Watler-Marte. says:

      No you should not stop!!!! let it all come out. Cleaners are being paid out of public purse and they should do their job.!!!! What is happening here on this island is it all for the almighty dollar.!!!!!

  10. Anonymous says:

    How could the preparation of the food be the cause of the sickness? Other schools were not affected by the same food, so, it has to be a problem at the Red Bay School. Other contributing factors.

    • Anonymous says:

      You’re an idiot. I only hope you don’t work in the food service industry.

    • Selena says:

      6:00 am
      You have to to be kidding.
      In my home country all who handles food (schools, grocery stores) are mandated to have quarterly basic health screenings that include blood work.

      • Anonymous says:

        Re 11:00
        Not so in Cayman……although it should be. Hopefully the Dept will be more vigilant now.

        • Anonymous says:

          11:00am Sadly, in reality it’s probably not actually so where you come from (I’m guessing the USA) because there are always ways to get round this. What employers do is falsely describe the staff duties to duck the tests. Check out recent news stories.

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