merlesfoodpoisoning.jpgClostridium perfringens has caused an outbreak of food poisoning illnesses at Merle’s BBQ in Evanston, Illinois, sickening more than 30 people.  Actually, the implicated meal was catered by Merle’s for the parent/teacher conferences at Haven Middle School on Feb. 16.  “The outcome of the investigation revealed unsafe food handling and temperature storage at both Merle’s BBQ Restaurant and Haven Middle School and it is therefore unlikely that the exact cause of the outbreak will be determined,” said Evanston Health Director Evonda Thomas. 

What is Clostridium perfringens?

Clostridium perfringens a bacterium that is widely distributed in the environment. Most outbreaks of this “bug”are associated with undercooked meats prepared for large groups of people. Meat products such as stews, casseroles, and gravy are the most common sources of illness from Clostridium perfringens. Most outbreaks come from food whose temperature is poorly controlled. If food is kept between 70 and 140 F, it is likely to grow Clostridium perfringens bacteria.

What is the illness caused by Clostridium perfringens typically like?

People generally experience symptoms of Clostridium perfringens infection 6 to 24 hours after consuming the bacteria or toxins. Clostridium perfringens toxins cause abdominal pain and stomach cramps, followed by diarrhea. Nausea is also a common symptom. Fever and vomiting are not normally symptoms of poisoning by Clostridium perfringens toxins.