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Staphylococcus aureus

Example 1 -- 1,364 children became ill out of a total of 5,824 who had eaten lunch served at 16 elementary schools in Texas. The lunches were prepared in a central kitchen and transported to the schools by truck. Epidemiological studies revealed that 95% of the children who became ill had eaten a chicken salad. The afternoon of the day preceding the lunch, frozen chickens were boiled for 3 hours. After cooking, the chickens were deboned, cooled to room temperature with a fan, ground into small pieces, placed into l2-inch-deep aluminum pans and stored overnight in a walk-in refrigerator at 42-45°F. The following morning, the remaining ingredients of the salad were added and the mixture was blended with an electric mixer. The food was placed in thermal containers and transported to the various schools at 9:30 AM to 10:30 AM, where it was kept at room temperature until served between 11:30 AM and noon. Bacteriological examination of the chicken salad revealed the presence of large numbers of S. aureus. Contamination of the chicken probably occurred when it was deboned. The chicken was not cooled rapidly enough because it was stored in l2-inch-deep layers. Growth of the staphylococcus probably occurred also during the period when the food was kept in the warm classrooms. Prevention of this incident would have entailed screening the individuals who deboned the chicken for carriers of the staphylococcus, more rapid cooling of the chicken, and adequate refrigeration of the salad from the time of preparation to its consumption.