It has recently been determined by the Salt Lake County Health Department that the soup served at St. Vincent de Paul Dining Hall is most probably the cause behind the illness that prompted more than homeless 50 people to go to various hospitals in Salt Lake City last week, on Sunday night.
The people had various symptoms, the most common ones being nausea and vomiting. People complained of feeling as if their whole stomach was going to explode.
The authorities, including the fire department and many others, came to the site to investigate the cause of so many cases of food poisoning.
The investigation revealed that the soup dish contained Staphylococcal enterotoxin, which is a bacteria that lies in human skin and can often result in food poisoning. It usually leads to foodborne illness if this bacteria is inserted in food that hasn’t been heated or cooled properly.
St. Vincent de Paul Dining Hall has not had similar incidents before. The authorities said that the kitchen is inspected twice a year and the inspections usually turn out well, even if they are unannounced.
During this investigation, the staff have fully cooperated while the officials watched their movements and checked if they followed health regulations.
However, the incident that occurred at St. Vincent de Paul Dining Hall seems to be nothing but an isolated incident related to a food handling error, according to food protection supervisor, Andrea Gamble with Salt Lake County Health Department.
She has been there with her team on Monday, the 1st of June to see if there was any unusual activity. Even if this is a Dining Hall giving away free food to the homeless and volunteers are the ones that usually prepare the meals, they also need to have food handler’s permits. Those who do not, can only serve food that has been cooked by those who have those permits.
The Catholic Community Service which is in charge of the dining hall, expressed their deep concern and apology in a statement they released on Friday:
“We are deeply concerned that our service and good intentions caused our homeless friends harm. We are working with the Salt Lake County Health Department and being proactive in taking every precaution to ensure the health and safety of the hundreds of clients we serve each day,” they said.
The bacteria is quite common and is most likely to be inserted in food when the person handling it touches it with bare hands. If the food is not too cold (lower than 41 degrees Fahrenheit) or too hot (higher than 135 degrees Fahrenheit), the bacteria has the perfect environment to produce the toxin.
Therefore, the people serving or cooking food in restaurants or at home should be very careful not to touch it and should always wash their hands before handling it.
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