BBC has been following an E. coli O157:H7 outbreak among attendees of a dance camp held in Cresselly, Wales. At least thirteen people who attended the dance camp have reported symptoms consistent with E. coli infection since the camp’s conclusion on August 9.
While the investigation is ongoing and a source has
not yet been identified, the current outbreak resembles a 2002 E. coli outbreak among attendees at a dance camp held at Eastern Washington University (EWU) in Cheney, Washington. That outbreak was ultimately traced to contaminated romaine lettuce sold by Spokane Produce, and included cases from a cafeteria dinner on a Spokane campus, lunch the following day from the same cafeteria, a restaurant salad in Spokane County, romaine lettuce purchased at several Spokane-area grocery stores, two restaurant salads in Walla Walla County, and romaine served at a restaurant in a Midwestern State.
We trust that educational institutions serve safe food, but the reality is that the E. coli outbreak associated with lettuce served at EWU was not an anomaly. In 2003, an E. coli outbreak associated with prepackaged lettuce included victims from school districts in San Diego County. Last year, another lettuce-associated E. coli outbreak sickened students at Michigan State University and the University of Michigan. The lettuce was supplied to the schools by Aunt Mid’s Produce Company of Detroit, Michigan.
It will be interesting to learn what Welsh public health authorities determine to be the source of the current dance camp-related E. coli outbreak. Whether the source is lettuce or some other food, it is a good reminder for educational institutions to review their food safety policies and take a close look at their suppliers. As they say, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.