The Peoria Journal Star reports that students at five District 150 middle schools went home sick Wednesday after eating lunch, the second time in a little more than a month children fell ill at district schools after lunch.
Thirty-five students became sick after eating their choice of chicken fajitas or turkey and noodles served with golden corn, assorted fruit, milk and juice, said district spokeswoman Stephanie Tate.
Lincoln Middle School was hit the hardest; 15 students complained of stomach cramps, vomiting, diarrhea and/or a fever.
Ten students at Blaine-Sumner, five at Roosevelt Magnet, three at Mark Bills and two at Washington Gifted suffered from the same symptoms. None of the students required hospital care and were sent home with their parents, Tate said.
Similar circumstances occurred during the first week of December. School officials reported 82 students from five elementary schools complained of illness. The students all ate chicken tacos paired with green beans and fruit. Almost 20 of those students went to area hospitals, where they were treated and released the same day. They suffered almost identical symptoms as students who ate Wednesday’s lunch.
“This incident isn’t as bad as the one in December because of the number (of students) involved and severity of the symptoms,” Tate said.
“There wasn’t the hysteria or emotional response this time,” she said, referring to large number of upset students and angry parents.
About noon Wednesday, District 150 officials were alerted that clusters of students had fallen ill, Tate said.
Students who ate first-period lunch started complaining of feeling ill while second-period lunch students were eating, Tate said. Suspecting something may be wrong with the food, school officials scraped the lunch for third period and served cold ham and cheese and peanut butter and jelly sandwiches instead. “Kids in the second-period lunch appeared to be affected,” said Tate, adding only children who ate the first lunch became sick.
The sick students, from fifth through eighth grades, were isolated from the rest of the student body while nurses assessed their conditions.
Peoria City/County Health Department officials were sent to the affected schools where interviews with students and staff were conducted. Whether they were able to determine if the sick students had eaten something in common was unavailable Wednesday night.
Food samples from the kitchens at the schools where the meals were served were collected by the Health Department, Tate said, though no tests were done at the high schools where the lunches were prepared.
Kitchen staff at Richwoods, Manual and Woodruff high schools prepare the food and it is then sent to middle and grade schools to be served. Students attending elementary schools where food is prepared at Peoria High School did not become sick.
Aramark, a private company, supplies meals to the district. Officials with the food service provider also collected food samples Wednesday, Tate said. When test results would be completed, Tate didn’t know.
The district still is waiting for results sent to the Illinois Department of Public Health last month to conclude its investigation from the Dec. 5 and Dec. 7 incidents.
“Right now we haven’t been able to determine what may have caused this,” Tate said. “We’re just waiting to see what comes out of this.”
A week after the outbreak in December, Health Department spokesman Hla Phone told the Journal Star that an infection like the flu wasn’t likely at fault. Rather, it could have been food poisoning or contamination in the water or air.