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Food poisoning investigated food safety summit in Baltimore

Four people reported illness during April event at convention center

By Pamela Wood, The Baltimore Sun

5:18 PM EDT, April 19, 2014

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Health officials are investigating a possible outbreak of food poisoning during a conference on food safety at the Baltimore Convention Center.

Four people who attended the Food Safety Summit, held April 7-10, reported becoming sick, according to city and state health officials. They called Baltimore's 311 line on April 15 and 16 to report feeling sick with diarrhea and an upset stomach about 12 hours after they had eaten a meal at the convention center on April 9.

There have been no hospitalizations or deaths, and no one who attended other events at the convention center has reported falling ill, health officials said.

Bob Pascal, chief marketing officer for Centerplate, the food contractor at the convention center, said the company is cooperating with the investigation.

"No issue is more important to Centerplate than the health and well-being of our guests," Pascal said in a statement. "We employ stringent quality and safety protocols in our operations, and we are routinely inspected by health officials to ensure that safe standards are met."

After the illnesses were reported, Baltimore health inspectors investigated Centerplate's operations and issued a violation for condensation dripping from an ice machine, said Michael Schwartzberg, a spokesman for the city's health department. The violation was immediately corrected.

Centerplate had no violations during its most recent regularly scheduled inspection in February, Schwartzberg said.

Centerplate has run the food service operation at the convention center since 2010. The company is headquartered in Stamford, Conn., and has contracts with more than 300 event venues in North America and Europe.

The Food Safety Summit included certification courses for safe food preparation and panel discussions on topics such as natural disasters, the beef industry, allergens and extending the shelf life of ready-to-eat foods.

Speakers included experts from government agencies and private food companies.

Amy Riemer, who handled public relations for the Food Safety Summit, said organizers helped put health investigators in touch with attendees to send out a questionnaire. She referred further comment to BNP Media, the company that owns the Food Safety Summit.

Rita Foumia, corporate strategy director for BNP Media, did not respond to a phone message on Saturday.

pwood@baltsun.com

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