Sarah Barry of DailyProgress.com (Virgina) reports that more than 40 members and guests of Farmington Country Club came down with upset stomachs on Easter, creating a mystery officials are still trying to solve.
As of Wednesday, the Charlottesville-Albemarle Health Department had not been able to identify the cause of the illnesses, said Roy Crewz, spokesman for the Thomas Jefferson Health District. “All of our information right now is very preliminary,” he said.
Two days after the club held an Easter brunch buffet, it began receiving phone calls from members and guests complaining of symptoms consistent with food poisoning.
“At that point we immediately called in the health department. They came in and they took samples of the food,” said club President Victor M. Dandridge III.
“We’ve been working hand-in-hand with them as part of their investigation and we continue to do that.”
Phil Kiester, general manager of the club, said that the buffet featured a menu of approximately 15 different items, including chicken, beef, fruits, salads and desserts.
There also is the possibility that the illnesses have nothing to do with improperly cooked or stored food. “There appears to be other sicknesses that are going around town that have similar symptoms to what people had at Farmington,” Dandridge said.
At Meriwether Lewis Elementary School in Albemarle, about 6 miles from the club, both faculty and students have been absent with stomach problems.
“It did hit one of our fifth-grade classrooms pretty hard,” said school Principal Sylvia Henderson, explaining that a third of the students in one classroom were absent for two days.
A “spotted group” of adults at the school has also gotten sick, Henderson said.
“I don’t think of it as an epidemic because it’s usually just one at a time,” she said.
The health department is not eliminating any possibilities as to the cause of the illnesses. “We’re casting as wide a net as possible to ensure a complete, comprehensive, exhaustive investigation,” Crewz said.
The Farmington Country Club, located just off U.S. 250 west of Charlottesville, is taking no chances and has voluntarily shut down its food facilities until it has been certified safe to serve food again.
Kiester said the club has contracted with Steritech, a private food-safety auditor, to provide a protocol to completely sanitize and treat every aspect of the club’s food service facility. Once the auditor has inspected the facility, it will be certified to reopen.
“The items that are of the utmost importance to us are that we have a complete and open investigation and that we give the utmost to our members and our guests,” Dandridge said.
Dandridge has sent an e-mail to club members detailing the steps the club has taken to ensure diners won’t get sick again. The club is also updating its Web site with information as it becomes available.