It was an average morning in an elementary
school on the island of Oahu, Hawaii. Students filed into their classrooms, and
cafeteria workers reheated a large batch of spaghetti for lunch. They had approximately 1,000 students to feed
later that day! The first graders came to eat lunch first,
around 10:30 am. Within a couple hours, over 30 children and
two adults were experiencing nausea and vomiting on the school premises. Several were also dizzy and appeared confused. School officials quickly took action. Ambulances picked up some of the children. Firefighters carried other children to a bus
to take to the hospital. The school closed the cafeteria and worked
with the local health authority to investigate the source of the outbreak. Health officials soon found that the spaghetti,
which had been cooked and cooled the night before, was reheated improperly. The school immediately started to retrain
their cafeteria staff and management on food safety practices like reheating. To minimize the time that food spends in the
temperature danger zone, where bacteria multiply most rapidly, food must be reheated within
two hours. If it will be kept hot for people to eat throughout
the day, like in a cafeteria, the food should be reheated to at least 165 degrees Fahrenheit. If the food doesn’t reach that temperature
within two hours, it must be thrown away. Do not use holding equipment like steam tables
to reheat food. This equipment will not heat food quickly
enough, especially if the food is in large batches. Stoves, ovens, or microwaves have a much better
chance of getting food to the right temperature on time. Splitting a large batch of food into smaller
portions can make the reheating process easier and safer. During the investigation and retraining of
cafeteria workers, the school arranged for a nearby school to bring meals. But thanks to the school’s quick and decisive
reaction to the outbreak, the school was able to re-open the cafeteria in no time!