LUAU FOOD POISONING MAY NEVER BE SOLVED
By Usha Sutliff
Staff Writer for the
– Health officials said Monday they may never know what
caused a deadly outbreak of food poisoning at a church dinner Sept. 16.
Mildred Mabb –an 80 year-old
woman with a
pre-existing medical condition – died, and up to 20 other people got sick
following a Polynesian-style luau thrown by the Church of Jesus Christ of
The evening luau in
was attended by more than 1,200 people. The menu included roasted pig, teriyaki
chicken, cabbage-based salad with oil and vinegar dressing and bread rolls.
One of the victims called the Pasadena
Public Health Department on Sept. 21. By
then, it was too late to collect the cultures and other medical specimens that
were crucial to the investigation, said Me Lim, manager of the department’s
Environmental Health Division.
“We may never find out what really was the
cause of the outbreak at that church because of the lack of information,” Lim
On Oct. 4,
health officials inspected the kitchen where the food
“Basically, everything was clean. We did find one refrigerator that was …about
57 degrees. We like to have it at 41
degrees Fahrenheit,” Lim said. “(But)
this is a church…They are not subject to the same regulations as
To date, health officials have interviewed
more than 15 people who go sick, along with the people who prepared the food,
according to Lim.
“We’ll probably just continue to interview
those who became sick,” he added.
Lim had some suggestions for church groups
and others who plan to prepare food for large gatherings.
“They should practice proper food
temperature control. Keep things hot or
keep things cold and avoid preparing raw food and cooked foods at the same
time. That’s what we call cross
contamination,” he said.
Randall Huff, president of the church’s
stake, said the church will ensure that food handlers at
future events are properly trained.
“Not everyone, apparently, was trained in
the (proper) food handling procedures (at the Sept. 16 event),” he said.
The refrigerator has since had a part
replaced and a thermometer will be installed, he added.
“I don’t think (this) will affect greatly
the turnout (of future events). I think
it will affect our careful supervision of future food handling,” Huff said. “We have served many thousands of meals in
church functions before. This was the
first time that we have had a large number of people who ever became ill
following any church event.”
Huff said church officials are also
puzzled about what caused people to become ill.
“We still are trying to figure out what
the source (of the food poisoning) was and we’re still, like the health
department, stumped as to the actual cause. In any event, we’re going to be ultra-careful in any food preparation and
handling in the future,” he said.