Students in two Park Forest schools became sick twice in two weeks this month after eating or drinking lunchroom fare.
So far, there is no known cause for the apparent food contamination that led to stomach aches and nausea and some students being briefly hospitalized. Cook County health officials are testing food items that were served to students at Forest Trail Middle School and 21st Century Preparatory Center, both in Park Forest-Chicago Heights School District 163.
The first incident took place Oct. 5 at Forest Trail. Seventeen students were treated at the hospital and released after getting sick. Last Monday, another 48 Forest Trail students and four 21st Century preschoolers complained of digestive symptoms, and a handful vomited after eating lunch.
It’s bad enough when students get sick one time. For it to happen twice, and in such a short period of time, should sound something of an alarm. It is essential that school officials, the food vendor and county health officials find the cause of the contamination, and as soon as possible.
The response from all parties has been good. The food company, which services about 350 Chicago-area schools, is ordering tests and working to find the cause of contamination. No similar outbreaks have been reported elsewhere. The county began its investigation after the first incident. District 163 suspended service with the vendor until the county investigation is done.
Preliminary results have shown that the contamination is not related to the bacteria or viruses that normally cause food poisoning. The food may have been tainted by an outside chemical, investigators say.
The safety of school food, of course, should never be in doubt. Answers are needed so parents know their children will be safe when they enter the lunchroom.