A spate of gastrointestinal illnesses at Yosemite National Park has spurred a federal investigation. The company that runs the foodservice, Aramark, is taking a wait and see position.
Aramark, with its headquarters in Philadelphia, has had numerous food safety issues in recent years at sports stadiums, including the stadium complex where the Kansas City Chiefs play, and other venues. Local television news stations near Yosemite reported that Aramark has received numerous complaints from visitors about poor food quality, shuttle service and other services since it began managing the park’s concessions four years ago.
A spokesman for the company down played the current situation at Yosemite.
“To clarify, the cause of the gastrointestinal illnesses has not been determined. HD officials are investigating the origin of the illnesses. Any reporting or classification of the illnesses as foodborne is speculation,” Aramark corporate communications officer David Freireich said in a statement to Food Safety News.
Federal officials said it is too early to specify a cause, but they are taking a harder line than the foodservice provider.
A park spokesman said federal officials are “working with the operator of Yosemite’s many restaurants, snack shops and hotels, Philadelphia-based Aramark, to carry out an ‘extensive clean-up and disinfection’ of food service areas in the valley. No dining facilities have been closed,” according to a report by the San Francisco Chronicle
Park officials issued a statement urging employees and tourists to practice good handwashing procedures and stay home if they are sick. Symptoms reported by most patients match those of norovirus, which is easily spread from person to person via direct contact, contaminated food, or contaminated surfaces and utensils, according to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Symptoms include severe diarrhea, vomiting, nausea and stomach pain.
The Chronicle reported at least a dozen people confirmed sick in the outbreak. The sick people include employees and park visitors.
Anyone who has had any food or beverages while at the park and later developed symptoms of norovirus should seek medical attention. The associated diarrhea and vomiting often dehydrates children and older adults.
(To sign up for a free subscription to Food Safety News, click here.)