Local News

Wedding Reception Leaves 50 People With Food Poisoning

Posted July 11, 1999

— For many people, a wedding is the happiest day of their lives, but for dozens of guests in Rocky Mount, the night after the wedding was one of the worst.

After eating at the wedding reception, 50 people were treated at Nash General Hospital for food poisoning.

Bill Hill, Nash County's health director, say it will be a long time before he forgets what he saw in the emergency room Sunday morning.

"When I got there, there must have been 40 or 50 people stretched out," he said. "I mean in the hallway, they were in the recovery rooms."

Every patient had eaten at a wedding reception at the Mount Zion First Baptist church Saturday afternoon. The meal was prepared by friends and family members, not a catering service. Inspectors believe the food spoiled after sitting out too long.

Professionals say bacteria grows most quickly between 40 and 140 degrees Fahrenheit, so keep your food heated or iced down until it is ready to serve.

"If food is in that danger zone, which is 40 to 140 degrees for two hours or more, you don't want to eat it because it's had time to grow bacteria that can make you sick," says Priscilla Livingston, a professional caterer.

If it sits out for more than two hours, throw it away. A $3 thermometer takes out the guess work.

"It will give you an idea how fast food can warm up if it's a cold item, or how fast food can chill down if it's a hot item," Livingston said. "What we have in our mind and what really exists are two different things."

Preparing food is a race against bacteria. Do the job right, and the hospital will not be the most memorable part of that special occasion.

If you choose to pay a caterer, professionals say it is best to find someone who is insured and regulated. Some caterers work out of their own kitchens and do not always follow the same safety guidelines.


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