More than 20 residents of a care home in France have fallen ill with suspected food poisoning and five have died.

A total of 22 people at La Chêneraie residence in Lherm, a town near Toulouse, became sick after a meal served on March 31 and 15 have been hospitalized. Thirteen remain under observation in hospital.

The site, operated by the Korian Group, has 82 residents and opened in 2006. In a statement, the company said residents showed clinical signs suggesting serious food poisoning after the evening meal.

“As soon as these first signs appeared, the management immediately informed the emergency services and organized their transfer to the nearest hospitals for medical care. An internal investigation was also carried out. We send our condolences to the families of the deceased residents.”

The company added it was working with authorities to determine the cause of the suspected poisoning.

The establishment produces meals on site with its own cooking teams. The last hygiene inspection, carried out by an external consulting firm, was on Feb. 12, 2019, with results showing no issues.

Families were informed of the incident during the night and French authorities have set up a number to call for information.

Authorities in Haute Garonne, a region in southwest France, said the sick elderly people were taken to different health facilities in the region.

Investigations are underway to determine the origin of the suspected food poisoning including a food questionnaire given to residents and analysis of the meals served.

A regional team of Santé Publique France, the national public health agency, will help as part of the inquiry and L’Agence régionale de santé Occitanie heard from the management of the establishment yesterday (Monday) on the conditions that led to the incident.

Korian recently acquired Omega, a specialist in elderly care based in south-west France and the company that operates the implicated facility.

Omega owns 14 long-term care nursing homes in the Nouvelle-Aquitaine and Occitanie regions and in Spain, as well as three assisted living facilities with around 1,000 beds. They also manage nine home-based care and services agencies.

Korian has a network of 54 long-term care nursing homes, 22 post-acute care clinics and two hospital home care facilities in the Nouvelle Aquitaine and Occitanie regions.

(To sign up for a free subscription to Food Safety News, click here.)