The News Courier in Athens, Alabama

Local News

February 2, 2014

UPDATE: Health Dept.: Beans soaked in horse trough

Dozens taken ill after annual event


1.) Soaking the beans in a plastic-lined horse trough covered with plywood, with a water hose running water through the trough (the ADPH did not know if or how the trough, which was located at the church, had been used prior to the dinner.)

2.) Handling food without gloves;

3.) Turning off the heat source for the beans and disconnecting gas lines for burners without monitoring the temperature of the food;

4.) Transferring the beans in outside cooking pots to a smaller iron pot on wheels to take large quantities of the beans inside the church;

5.) Using one sterno can per 6-inch-deep chaffing pan to maintain the holding temperature of the beans;

6.) Re-using chaffing pans and adding new beans to existing beans throughout the serving time.

Illness sweeps

On Oct. 7, three days after the bean dinner, public health officials in the area were notified that several people had reported symptoms of gastrointestinal illness after eating food from the event. An infection preventionist for Athens-Limestone Hospital told public health officials that 47 people who said they had eaten food from the fundraiser had reported to the emergency room on Oct. 5 and 6. Public Health Department staff eventually identified 134 people who had been exposed to salmonellosis, and 73 of those were interviewed using outbreak-specific questionnaires. Of those interviewed, 50 reported illnesses, the report revealed.

It did not seem to matter, statistically, whether those who fell ill ate at the church, picked up a to-go plate or had a plate delivered to them, according to the report.

Although the most common signs and symptoms reported were diarrhea, extreme tiredness/weakness and abdominal pain, other symptoms included muscle aches, nausea, headache, fever, vomiting and bloody stools, the report showed. Recovery time ranged from two hours to five days, with the median being three days, according to the report. Some members of The News Courier staff said, however, that a month passed before they felt normal again.

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