On Monday, Ave Marie Friends Preparatory School in Lauderhill was the scene of chaos and fear as 29 young children became ill, some violently so. It now appears that tainted turkey sandwiches from a local catering company caused the illnesses, and the Florida Department of Health is investigating the incident, as is the Broward Sheriff’s Child Protective Investigation Section.
CBS Miami reports that first responders received a call from Ave Maria Friends at about 2:00 p.m. on Monday regarding a sick child. They arrived to find 29 young children suffering from nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and dehydration. 21 children were taken to local hospitals for treatment, some of whom had to be wheeled out on stretchers. The parents of another 8 children chose not to have Fire and Rescue take them to the hospital, but at least one of these children was brought to the emergency room later that evening.
The Miami Sun Sentinel says that assistant chief of Lauderhill Fire Rescue, Jeff Levy, reported that food poisoning is suspected to be the cause of the illnesses. Not only did hazmat crews not find any gas leaks in the building, but all of the children who became ill had eaten turkey sandwiches from the same catering company for lunch that day. All children who did not eat the sandwiches showed no symptoms, and neither did any adults.
According to ABC affiliate Local 10 News, authorities have revealed that the food was provided by Montoya Healthy Children Catering. When a reporter from Local 10 News went to the catering facility on Tuesday, he found bins of milk sitting outside in the heat. A manager told him that the milk was frozen and was about to be put in freezers, and he said that the company has had no prior issues with foodborne illnesses. However, public records show that the facility was last inspected on October 28, and that they received a warning and corrective action because investigators found food stored at incorrect temperatures.
While parents of the sickened children may not blame the school for the catering company’s negligence, they have taken issue with the fact that the school did not notify them immediately when children began to vomit and show other signs of illness. Phi Menter, whose nephew attends the school, says that the child’s mother panicked when she drove up to the school and saw multiple fire trucks and ambulances because she had not received a call from the school.
“They definitely should have called the parents as soon as it happened. Don’t just send them to the hospital. I understand the desire to send them to the hospital but in all reality, the parents should have been aware because the parents love their kids,” she said.
Ave Marie Friends Preparatory School remained closed on Tuesday as a result of the ongoing investigation into this outbreak.
Given that so many children became ill after eating the sandwiches from a company that had recently incurred violations for improper food storage, it is possible that one or more parents will file a foodborne illness lawsuit in pursuit of compensation for their child’s suffering. If you live in Florida and believe you may have grounds for a food poisoning lawsuit, please contact our personal injury attorneys to schedule a free legal consultation.