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Tainted BOP Chicken Sickens 300 Pennsylvania Prisoners

More than 300 prisoners at the U.S.P. Canaan in Waymont, Pennsylvania near Philadelphia, fell ill of salmonella after eating "tainted chicken" used to make fajitas. Four of the 300 were ill enough to necessitate treatment at a local hospital's emergency room for dehydration.

According to Lamine N'diaye, a spokesman for the federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP) northeast regional office, the prison kitchen was closed down for cleaning after the outbreak, but has since reopened after a BOP inspector deemed it safe. Neither N'diaye not Russel Reither, the institution's human resource manager, would comment on the source of the food, nor its source, but both did confirm that it was all "wholesale food, prepared on site."

A Pennsylvania Department of Health official stated that their investigation of the incident was continuing, adding that "we did provide assistance to the facility by taking stool samples and food testing." According to the same official, all of the food in the kitchen was disposed of after the outbreak.

Salmonella is rarely fatal, but it can be serious if it spreads into the bloodsteam or the intestines, where it can cause a form of arthritis. The Associated Press stated that they first found out about the salmonella outbreak from the Seattle-based law firm of Marler Clark, which concentrates in the area of food-borne illnesses.          Two attorneys from the firm confirmed that families of more than half a dozen prisoners contacted them to report the presence of the disease at the prison.

USP-Canaan contains approximately 1,400 prisoners, and also has a satellite camp with 125 minimum-security prisoners contiguous to it. During the outbreak, meals for the USP were prepared in the camp's kitchens until the cleanup was complete.

It is not unusual for the BOP to purchase meats such as hamburger and chicken in bulk,system-wide, and then forward same to its various locations, indicating that additional bad food might also be in other institution's warehouses. There has been no announcement of a recall of chicken by the BOP to date.

The Marler Clark law firm has handled the legal matters of several hundred private citizens in the past several years, including salmonella-tainted tomatoes served on made-to-order sandwiches at Sheetz convenience stores in 2004. In another incident in Pennsylvania in 2003, 660 people developed hepatitis A when they ate tainted green onions at Chi-Chi's restaurant in Beaver County. Three people died in that incident.

According to Christine Cronkright of the Pennsylvania Department of Health, no new illnesses were reported since the initial outbreak and 90% of those who fell ill had eaten the chicken fajitas. There were no reports of any outbreaks of salmonella outside of the prison, or in the greater Philadelphia area.


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