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Food poisoning sickens 100 people at Food Safety Summit

Food poisoning

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(NaturalNews) Officials from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, fell ill after attending a national Food Safety Summit in Baltimore, Maryland, last month.

"A couple of our folks indicated that they had experienced symptoms associated with food poisoning after the summit," said Juli Putnam, an FDA spokeswoman.

The summit, which is described on its website as a "solutions-based conference and expo designed to meet the needs of the food industry," sickened nearly 100 of the 1,300 attendees, reported NBC News.

However, officials only heard from 400 of the conference-goers, indicating that the number of those fallen ill could have been much higher.

More than a month has passed, yet Maryland state officials are still puzzled as to what could have caused the food poisoning. Attendees reportedly suffered from nausea, vomiting and diarrhea.

"We are working on evaluating possible exposures and doing testing at the Maryland state public health laboratory to attempt to identify an agent," wrote officials in a letter to attendees.

NBC News reported that at least four people called the Baltimore City Health Department complaining of food-poisoning symptoms 12 hours after eating a meal on April 9 during the conference.

The conference, which was held April 8-10, attracted thousands of food safety professionals, including staff from federal agencies and businesses such as McDonald's, Tyson, Chiquita and ConAgra Foods.

The Food Safety Summit offers industry professionals three full days of education, including interactive solutions and tools. It also includes specialized training, certification courses, demonstration of the latest tools and technologies, and a chance to collaborate with food safety professionals representing the entire supply chain.

A look at the caterer

An investigation into the food provider, Centerplate, provided no answers, but the catering company was given a violation for two ice machines that were leaking condensation in the kitchen, a spokesman told NBC News.

Centerplate declined a request for comment by Reuters.

Officials also inspected the convention center but reported that no clues were found revealing the possible cause.

Seattle food safety lawyer Bill Marler posted a survey online sent to him and other conference goers requesting that they report when and what they ate, and how they felt afterwards.

"We have not yet determined how people became ill, and we want your help to do so, even if you did not get sick," wrote officials with the outbreak response unit for the Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene.

Peggy Daidakis, the executive director of the center, made it very clear that they weren't trying to hide anything.

"None of us are very happy when we hear these things," said Daidakis. She also confirmed that officials have been fully cooperative with investigators attempting to identify the cause of the illnesses.

Food poisoning typically occurs after ingesting food or water contaminated with bacteria, parasites or viruses. The most common type of food poisoning is caused by Staphylococcus or E. coli. These germs can make their way into food through meat or poultry that has come into contact with bacteria from the intestines of an animal, or via water contaminated by animal or human waste.

Unsafe handling of food during preparation in restaurants or grocery stores can also be a root cause of food poisoning. It is most common after eating at large social functions, such as the Food Safety Summit.

Some other cases of food poisoning might involve Campylobacter enteritis, cholera, Salmonella or Shigella.

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