March 21, 2023

Food Poisoning Outbreak at NM Department of Health Luncheon

The Santa Fe New Mexican is reporting that a food poisoning outbreak has occurred at the state Department of Health’s annual holiday luncheon. Dozens of employees got sick after eating at that party last week.

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The event was held at the Harold Runnels Building. More than 200 employees were at the luncheon, and about 70 people suffered from gastrointestinal issues after eating. The party was catered by an unnamed facility.

There may have been cross-contamination of foods served during the event. But the outbreak may have been caused by Bacillus cereus or Clostridium perfringens, common pathogens that cause a lot of illness this time of the year.

Those pathogens usually sicken people when food is prepared in large amounts and served to large groups. It can be difficult to keep gallons of food at safe serving temperatures during an event. In fact, two Clostridium perfringens outbreaks this holiday season occurred in New York at Golden Ponds restaurant, sickening 260 people; and at the Antioch American Legion Hall in California. That event sickened at least 25 people, and three of those patients died.

Outbreaks that occur at holiday parties when food is stored and served for more than two hours are usually caused by those two bacteria. Hot foods must be kept at more than 140°F, and cold foods must be kept below 40°F.

In that danger zone, bacteria multiply rapidly in foods. They then produce toxins that make people sick. Clostridium perfringens is one of the most common causes of foodborne illness.

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