A food poisoning outbreak associated with allegedly contaminated tri-tip sandwiches served to San Benito High School seniors on Thursday, May 19, 2016 has forced the cancellation of their trip to Disneyland. At least 80 students from the California high school were sickened, and at least 12 students had to go to the hospital. The day after the seniors ate the sandwiches, on Friday May 20, 2016, other students ate the leftovers and also got sick.
Health officials say that since no food is left for testing, they cannot tell what made the students sick. But they could certainly conduct stool sample testing on the ill students and run PFGE tests to identify the bacteria and to see if the same strain made all of the teenagers sick.
The symptoms of this outbreak included stomach aches, vomiting, and diarrhea. Those are the classic symptoms of Salmonella or E. coli food poisoning. Since the students didn’t get sick until the next day, Salmonella is the most likely culprit. Symptoms of that illness usually begin 12 to 72 hours after exposure to the pathogenic bacteria.
The seniors were on the bus heading to Disneyland when some of them started getting sick. The busses were forced to turn back to the high school.
The meat for the sandwiches was purchased at a Hollister Safeway store and was cooked by the student’s parents. Officials think that “poor food handling” probably caused the problem. That could range from undercooking the meat, allowing cross-contamination, letting the meat sit outside of refrigeration too long either before or after cooking, or holding the meat at a temperature that is too low. Meat is often contaminated with pathogenic bacteria.
The students will have the cost of their trip refunded to them. The trip may be rescheduled.