Kati Phillips of The Daily Southtown Star reports that the Cook County Department of Public Health plans to test 14 food items, including chicken tenders, peas and fruit cups that were served Monday at Forest Trail Middle School and 21st Century Preparatory Center. Fruit juice served Oct. 5 that may have triggered illness in 17 middle school students also will be tested.
Health officials expect the tests to rule out pathogens typically associated with food poisoning.
Ceres Food Group, the Chicago-based food management company, also is ordering laboratory tests, and results should be available in a few days, said Park Forest-Chicago Heights School District 163 Supt. Joyce Carmine.
But the school board is taking no chances of a third food poisoning and unanimously voted Monday night to suspend service with Ceres until the health department investigation is complete.
Forty-eight middle schoolers and four preschoolers complained of stomachaches and nausea, and three or four students vomited shortly after eating the hot lunch two days ago. They were treated from seven area hospitals Monday afternoon and released, authorities said.
The apparent food poisoning comes within two weeks of a similar outbreak at Forest Trail Middle School. On Oct. 5, 17 students were briefly hospitalized with similar symptoms. Fruit juice with an elevated level of yeast appeared to be the culprit, according to tests commissioned by Ceres, though the juice producers contest that claim.
Chemical food poisoning can be caused by cleaning products, pesticides or elevated levels of certain vitamins, minerals or preservatives.
Carmine said any such contamination would occur before the food reaches the school. Breakfasts and lunches are delivered, cooked and served in sealed containers that are opened by the students, she said.
Health department officials checked the cooler at Forest Trail Middle School on Monday and found food at temperatures below 40 degrees, she said.
If tests show the lunches were tainted by chemicals, it would not be a first in the south suburbs.
More than 150 students and teachers suffered from vomiting, headaches, oral burning and diarrhea after eating ammonia-soaked chicken nuggets at a Joliet school in 2002.
An operations manager from a downstate trucking company was sentenced to 366 days in prison after he ordered the chicken — damaged by an industrial ammonia leak — be reboxed and sent to schools.