By Tim Leeds
Hill County Sanitarian Heidi Bischoff said a report of food poisoning at a daycare last week appears to be an isolated incident.
Bischoff said they have sent the food off for analysis. She said it appears to be a single episode of mild food poisoning, so they are not issuing any major alerts at this point.
"There's so many points of possible contamination, when it was made, when it was shipped that's why we send it off," she said. "We won't know until we get the results back where to go from here."
A Havre daycare called the sanitarian's office after five children, none older than 3, became ill shortly after eating some corn dogs prepared at the day care Thursday, March 18.
Bischoff said one child was taken to the Havre clinic and was ill overnight, but the other four recuperated fairly quickly. She said the names of the daycare and the children are not being released while the cause of the poisoning is under investigation. Children who ate corn dogs from a different package did not become ill.
Howard Reid, supervisor at the Montana Food and Consumer Safety Section in Helena, said the symptoms the children had appear to be toxin-related, and the food sample was shipped yesterday to a midwest laboratory of the U.S.D.A. for analysis. He said the problem could be that bacteria or chemicals contaminated the corn dogs, and that will be the first testing the lab does.
Once the contamination is determined, Reid said, the next step will be to use traceback protocols to find out where it happened. He said the corn dogs were manufactured in Texas, and if the contamination is found to be bacteria or chemicals, they will try to determine if it happened at the manufacturer, in transit to the retailer, or otherwise.
Reid said Albertsons in Havre has been very cooperative and has voluntarily pulled all of the remaining product in question until the analysis is complete.
Bischoff said anyone preparing food needs to use caution in preparing it to prevent food poisoning. The state-licensed daycare where the incident happened appears to use proper food-handling techniques, she said.
Simply using proper handwashing procedures when handling food can prevent many contamination problems, Bischoff said. She said people should also make sure that all utensils, surfaces and dishes used are completely clean.
Bischoff said checking expiration dates when buying food can also prevent a lot of problems. She said she can't imagine why anyone would purchase expired food products, but if they do, they should use them as soon as possible.