The South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC) announced Tuesday that a foodborne illness outbreak had been traced to a church fundraiser held November 13 in Conway, SC.

 “The meals were prepared at a local hunting club and sold at the Cedar Grove Baptist Church in Conway to raise money to benefit the family of an ill child,” said Covia L. Stanley, M.D., director of DHEC’s Region 6 public health office, which serves Horry, Georgetown and Williamsburg counties. “So far, we have received reports of five people hospitalized with gastro-intestinal illness symptoms after purchasing and consuming food from the fund raiser.”

Barbeque pork, baked sweet potatoes, coleslaw, and rolls were all served at the fundraiser.  Samples of the leftover food were sent to the DHEC laboratories in Columbia for analysis.

DHEC officials reported that at least 125 people have sought medical attention since eating food provided at the fundraiser and eleven people have been hospitalized with symptoms consistent with Salmonella infection.  

Anyone who bought one of the approximately 1,500 plates sold at the fundraiser is encouraged to throw out any leftover food and seek medical attention if they are experiencing symptoms consistent with food poisoning.  

Salmonella infection causes diarrhea, abdominal cramps, fever, nausea, and sometimes vomiting. In mild cases diarrhea may be non-bloody, and occur several times per day; in severe cases it may be frequent, bloody and/or mucoid, and of high volume.

Prior outbreaks at fundraisers have led to increased regulation in some states.  In Pennsylvania, food prepared in a private home can only be used if the home kitchen is licensed, registered, and inspected by the Pennsylvania Department of Health. 

Bill Chirdon, director of the Bureau of Food Safety and Laboratory Services at the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture explained the 2003 change in the food code and a crack-down by health inspectors in an April 2009 issue of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review.  “One-third of all food-borne illnesses come from private fundraisers,” he said.