By James T. Mulder
Syracuse, N.Y. — An outbreak of gastrointestinal illness among guests at a wedding reception in Brewerton July 31 was caused by food poisoning, according to the state Health Department.
About 35 people got sick at the party at Arrowhead Lodge, an Onondaga County-owned facility at Oneida Shores Park, and at least nine of them were taken to area emergency rooms.
The health department said in an email today its lab tested samples collected from sick individuals and the results came back positive for staph aureus enterotoxin infection, a type of food poisoning.
The illness is caused by eating foods contaminated with toxins produced by Staphylococcus aureus, a type of bacteria.
Food workers who carry Staphylococcus and then handle food without washing their hands contaminate foods by direct contact, according to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Staphylococcus can also be found in unpasteurized milk and cheese products. Staphylococcus is salt tolerant and can grow in salty foods like ham. As the bacterium multiplies in food, it produces toxins that can cause food poisoning. Staphylococcal toxins are resistant to heat and cannot be destroyed by cooking. Foods at highest risk of producing toxins from Staphylococcus aureus are those made by hand and require no cooking. Some examples of foods that have caused staphylococcal food poisoning are sliced meat, puddings, pastries and sandwiches. The foods may not smell bad or look spoiled in order to produce the toxins.
The health department said no additional cases of illnesses associated with the facility or caterer were reported. The department did not identify the caterer.
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