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Bad spaghetti blamed in Waipahu Elementary food-poisoning

By Star-Advertiser staff

LAST UPDATED: 04:17 a.m. HST, Dec 17, 2013

A food-poisoning outbreak at Waipahu Elementary School in which more than 30 children and two adults fell ill was caused by bacteria growth in spaghetti, state officials said Monday afternoon.

Laboratory test results and a health inspection report concluded that a portion of spaghetti served in the school cafeteria during lunch on Dec. 10 contained bacteria that resulted from improper food preparation, according to a news release jointly issued by the state's Department of Health and Department of Education. 

An inspection conducted by the Health Department found cafeteria food prepared the previous day had not been properly re-heated in the morning and may not have been properly cooled the day before, creating an environment for bacteria growth.

Peter Oshiro, DOH sanitation branch chief said in the release: "An inspection and interviews with cafeteria employees revealed food preparation violations that could be corrected with proper training and follow through." Oshiro added that the cafeteria is now closed while staff undergo retraining. 

Waipahu Elementary School Principal Gary Chun said in the release: "While this was an isolated incident, our staff has and continues to fully cooperate with health officials in ensuring best practices. We appreciate the patience and understanding of our school community and remain committed to proper meal preparation."

During the health investigation, meals were brought in to Waipahu Elementary from a neighboring school. Deliveries will continue this week until the school's cafeteria crew completes health safety training.

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niimi wrote:
I wonder who supplies the meat to the public schools?
on December 16,2013 | 04:15PM
1local wrote:
kitchens are not food safety certified? Employees are not already food safety trained? The whole staff including the cafeteria manager should be fired... All food should be contracted out to certified kitchens. This would result in huge savings to Hawaii taxpayers and safe food for our keiki...
on December 16,2013 | 05:53PM
Ronin006 wrote:
Niimi, the food poisoning had nothing to do with which vendor supplied the meat. It was caused by poor food handling by cafeteria staff. The meat used in the spaghetti sauce was probably Grade-A until cafeteria workers messed with it.
on December 16,2013 | 06:30PM
john_zee wrote:
they mean the sauce not the spaghetti, right?
on December 16,2013 | 05:49PM
mitt_grund wrote:
Just to digress. I remember in the 60's that we used to load large gallon cans of tomatoes and tomato sauce and other canned goods into the cafeteria manager's car trunk. Always wondered what she did with the stuff - was it "take-out" spaghetti? LOL.
on December 17,2013 | 06:51AM
Ronin006 wrote:
Please report as it really happened. It was not bad spaghetti that caused the food poisoning; it was caused by improper food preparation, meaning the cooks messed up. They probably did not wash their hands after doing number 2 in the rest room, which, unfortunately, is all too common.
on December 16,2013 | 06:21PM
copperwire9 wrote:
Read the article. Improper cooling the day before, improper re-heating that same day.
on December 16,2013 | 09:13PM
Ronin006 wrote:
Re-read the article. May not have been properly cooled . Inconclusive finding. The cooks still messed up.
on December 16,2013 | 09:39PM
Kealii wrote:
The spaghetti was indeed bad, you can't actually call it good spaghetti if it ends up making people sick. But I get your point, the spaghetti was made bad by improper food handling so yes, the cooks messed up. If the information shared about this unfortunate incident is true then improper hand washing most likely did not contribute to this ordeal. The symptoms would be different and the onset of those symptoms would have occurred later.
on December 16,2013 | 10:26PM
Kealii wrote:
It sounds like this was staphylococcal food poisoning due to the quick incubation period and the symptoms the victims experienced.
on December 16,2013 | 06:23PM
Ronin006 wrote:
The story's title should have been: "Bad cooks blamed in Waipahu Elementary food-poisoning"
on December 16,2013 | 06:26PM
RandolphW wrote:
Very likely, the spaghetti sauce was refrigerated before it had cooled down. By placing the too hot spaghetti sauce in the refrigerator, the end result would be an insulating barrier being formed around the center of the hot sauce. This in turn would have made for a near perfect breeding ground for bacteria to have grown. This alone had the potential to sicken those who ate the reheated sauce, even if the sauce had been heated to a proper temperature before being served. It is truly shocking that the cafeteria staff doesn't monitor the preparation and storage processes of everything they prepare on a daily basis. The staff certainly does need to be retrained.
on December 16,2013 | 08:16PM
Kealii wrote:
There are several ways to properly cool down foods such as sauces, gravies, chili and soups. The key is the food needs to be rapidly chilled. The easiest way would probably be to use a special refrigerator known as rapid chill units. Another less costly way would be to divide up the food into shallow pans with a product depth no more than 4 inches deep and place in the refrigerator (uncovered until the temperature reaches 45 degrees, then cover). Finally, you can place the containers of food into an ice bath and stir until chilled As far as reheating food, if you reheat to at least 165 degrees that is usually sufficient to kill most bacteria. Afterwards, you should maintain a temperature of at least 140 degrees to keep the food out of the danger zone..
on December 16,2013 | 10:40PM
pandadaddy wrote:
Prepping spaghetti the day before? Why? Do they think they're Zippy"s?
on December 16,2013 | 08:44PM
inverse wrote:
Lazy, inefficient, sloppy in preparing meals. Can you imagine going to a halfway decent restaurant and being served food cooked days before? Maybe these cafeteria workers are like garbage men and use the uku pau method of cooking many meals simultaneously in one day and then serving it the rest of the week so they only need to work one fifth of the time. Would have got away with it except the high profile problem of 40 kids puking and po oing the brains out simultaneously. Add one more reason why private school attendance is so high in Hawaii. This DOE cafeteria staff manager should have been FIRED but instead will be "retrained" because of union protection.
on December 17,2013 | 01:37AM
Smiley7 wrote:
Would you place your trust in the state or cafeteria workers? I wouldn't want my grandchildren exposed to the risks and gamble with their health. My family suffered through food poisoning twice suspecting the same business, never thinking it could happen again and it did. We no longer patronize that business even though they relocated to a different and newer building, the same workers prepare the food. Fool me once.......
on December 17,2013 | 03:47AM
HanabataDays wrote:
"On top of spaghetti / All covered with cheese / I lost my poor meatball / When somebody sneezed. / It rolled off the table / And on to the floor / And then my poor meatball / Rolled out of the door. / It rolled in the garden / And under a bush / And then my poor meatball / Was nothing but mush". . . . . . . . . . Put down the meatball, son, and step back slowly. We don't want anyone getting hurt.
on December 17,2013 | 05:06AM
RYMATS wrote:
So many critics from the backseat..Maybe you guys should volunteer to teach the school cooks in the 'proper' and hygienic way of preparing food for the masses. Accidents are accidents and mistakes are mistakes. If it was done maliciously and people died, then spout off. One time doesn't make it a habit or consistency. Corrective action is being taken. Let those responsible bear the burden as I am sure all of the workers involved care about what happened. To suggest dismissal is a knee jerk, non-thinking comment and an extreme. For those 'witnessing' and commenting about hand washing after #2..I am sure you chastised the employee and reported it to their superiors. If not, your just as guilty.
on December 17,2013 | 07:11AM
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