MSU Dining Hall Closed Thanks to Another Food Poisoning OutbreakApr 2, 2009 | Parker Waichman LLP Michigan State University (MSU) is again facing a food poisoning outbreak, this time, indefinitely closing a campus dining hall, reported the Detroit News. This fall, MSU was hit with an E. coli outbreak believed linked to Aunt Mid’s lettuce.
Now, health officials are reporting that over 50 people have been stricken with a stomach illness, which was followed by an investigation by the county health department, said Detroit News. "We have a number of students who became ill in a short period of time," said Dr. Dean Sienko, head of the Ingham County Health Department. "That's an outbreak," he noted, according to Detroit News.
The illness started being reported at about 2:00 a.m. yesterday with about 28 students reporting symptoms that include diarrhea, vomiting, nausea, and stomach pain and who were treated at a local hospital, said the Detroit News; 16 remained hospitalized as of last night. Approximately 30 other students were treated at the student health center, said Detroit News, which noted that most of the ill students live at MSU’s Shaw Hall.
The source of the illness and the type of illness remain unknown; however, the college believes the sickness to be food borne. According to Dr. Sienko, the current outbreak appears to be different from this September’s E. coli outbreak, "We are early in the investigation…. People want us to have answers, and these things just take time," quoted the Detroit News.
Dozens of cases of E. coli, all containing the same genetic fingerprint, were reported in the earlier outbreak, which appeared to initiate at MSU, spread to a variety of states, and was linked to contaminated lettuce from large commercial bags sold by Aunt Mid's. Twenty-one people were hospitalized, with one developing HUS, or hemolytic uremic syndrome, a type of kidney failure linked to food poisoning.
The Michigan Department of Agriculture conducted product and environmental sample testing at Aunt Mid’s, with additional testing conducted by the state health department, MSU, the federal Food and Drug Administration (FDA), and Aunt Mid's. The tests all came back negative because, according to state health officials, lettuce from the outbreak was not available at the time of the testing. But, once the contaminated lettuce was identified by authorities and was no longer available—and despite Aunt Mid’s claims its lettuce was not the source—the outbreak stopped.
E. coli is the leading cause of food-borne illness in the U.S. and accounts for about 73,000 infections and 61 death. And, now, there is growing concern in the scientific community—not just because of the seeming prevalence of all manner of food borne illnesses—but because instances of drug resistant E. coli are being reported world-wide.
Many other food borne-related gastrointestinal illnesses have made headlines recently. For instance, a number of salmonella outbreaks have been reported nationwide in recent weeks and days with the largest being the historic outbreak linked to Peanut Corporation of America (PCA) peanuts and peanut products and an emerging and growing outbreak linked to Setton Pistachios. The salmonella pathogen was to blame for an outbreak linked to SunSprout Enterprises sprouts distributed by CW Sprouts. Tainted spices from the Union International Food Company, "Kroger Lite Mayo" and other foods have also been blamed for salmonella outbreaks.
Also, Norovirus recently shut down Massachusetts’ Babson College, and in an unrelated incident, prompted an oyster recall in the Mississippi area.