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60 Hospitalized in Denver After Eating Charity Dinner

At least 60 people have been hospitalized after eating at a Denver homeless shelter Sunday night.

Less than an hour after eating a turkey dinner served at the Denver Rescue Mission at 7 p.m., dozens of meal recipients began to vomit and became dehydrated from fluid loss.

Emergency responders were called to both Denver Rescue Mission’s Lawrence Street Shelter – where the meal was served – and to the Samaritan House across the street, where some people who had eaten the meal were staying. A total of 54 people from the Lawrence Street Shelter and 6 from the Samaritan House were taken to the hospital, according to Alexxa Gagner, a representative from Denver Rescue Mission.

No deaths have been associated with the event thus far.

Many of those who ate the meal were not staying at either shelter, meaning that other homeless individuals in the Denver area may also be sick.

“We served 340 people last night for dinner, and we know that 60 of those people got sick but as far as people who left our facility and went out into the community we don’t know if they were sick or not,” Gagner told Food Safety News.

Denver Rescue Mission has notified Denver’s Road Home, which coordinates homeless assistance efforts throughout the city, so that all facilities in the network can be on the lookout for others who may have been sickened after Sunday night’s meal.

So far the exact source of the food poisoning remains unclear, say health officials.

“At this point we don’t want to speculate. We have our investigators out there and they’re checking but we really have no idea what the source is,” Megan Hughes, a representative for the Denver Department of Environmental Health, told Food Safety News.

While turkey was the main course at the dinner, mashed potatoes and vegetables were also served and have not been ruled out as possible sources of contamination. Denver Rescue Mission says it’s possible that the food that made people ill was given to the shelter as a donation.

“It is unclear if it was donated and that’s what we’re looking into. We did have some donations on Saturday and so we’re seeing if that’s what was actually served,” says Gagner.

© Food Safety News
  • husna aijaz

    The practice of serving donated cooked food at the end of the day is a shameful practice as there is a likelihood for an illness like this to strike. Anyone accepting donated food should know the source of donation, the time the food was cooked and the temperature it was held at as the donated food vendor does not hold any legal liability!
    Those working in the arena of food safety know the consequences of serving such food, but the ignorant lot continue on with the practice, not once thinking what the consequences to unsuspecting consumer can be!

  • Sarah

    When I volunteered at battered women’s shelters, people often came in with loads of expired and partly thawed food they wanted to “donate”. When we had to refuse the obviously unsafe food, often – too often -these generous folk would get angry and tell us the women should be glad to get it. Which is a long way of saying that the companies who donate the food should know better, too, since many of these charitable orgs are staffed by volunteers who might not have the info -or the cojones – to say no to donated food.

  • BobWhid

    Wait a minute. Onset of symptoms in less than one hour? My handy-dandy foolborne illness chart narrows the culprits down to almost nothing. Much more likely a inorganic toxin than a biological issue. Will a deeper investigation point elsewhere? This doesn’t mean that our charitable organizations don’t need to be educated regarding recieving quality and safe food, but it does mean that we need to use our knowledge in food safety and not be like the general public and jump straight to the last foods on the plate.

  • husna

    The pathogen responsible could be B.Cereus and a rice dish (most probably) as the symptoms begin within 1-6 hours of eating the contaminated food.
    I do agree with Sarah that the “generous folks” do get upset upon asking any questions in reference to food safety and the volunteers are only doing what they are asked to do. It would be ideal for the facility accepting food to ask the details about the food donated…maybe even get a volunteer specializing in food safety to step forward and help occasionally during events like these.

  • R L

    With this unbearable heat we’ve been having food can spoil very quickly.
    Even at home, I rinse any poultry and cook at least to 180 degrees to kill any left over bacteria.
    If it doesn’t pass the smell test I return it if possible or throw it out.
    If donated and spoiled. I thank the giver graciously and then toss it in the old circular file ,if yo know what I mean.
    Good intentions should always be appreciated.

  • yea what bobwhid said. less than an hr doesnt seem like a pathogen any ideas?