The Journal Times reported yesterday that Del Rey Tortillas of Chicago has again been implicated in student illnesses:
FDA officials again pulled several cases of soft shell flour tortillas from Racine Unified kitchens this week, after an outbreak of illness at three Racine Unified schools last week. A single manufacturer, Del Rey, produced all the flour tortillas consumed in the three middle schools where children and teachers were sickened last week. The state Department of Public Instruction issued a statement Friday indicating that the focus of the investigation had turned to the tortillas.
“In an effort to protect children from becoming ill, we are strongly encouraging all schools to refrain from serving the flour tortillas,” the DPI said in its release.
In January 2006 the same thing happened and the FDA was forced to ask for a recall then as well:
Local school districts free of suspected food poisoning product
Local parents and students can breathe – and eat – easier, following assurance from Aramark Food Service that the tortilla shells suspected to have caused illness among District 150 students are not used in other local schools. Last Wednesday, 45 Peoria District 150 students complained of feeling sick after lunch. This follow a December incident in which about 80 students at five District 150 schools became ill after lunch, complaining of the same symptoms reported last Wednesday. Chicago-based Del Ray Tortilleria did agree to recall the tortilla shells and adjust its ingredients, said Marlena Bordson of the Illinois Department of Public Health Friday. Peoria County Health Department voluntarily pulled the tortillas from school menus in advance of Del Ray’s recall.
Tortillas have been implicated in much earlier outbreaks:
Multiple Outbreaks of Gastrointestinal Illness Among School Children Associated with Consumption of Flour Tortillas — Massachusetts, 2003–2004
Ten outbreaks of gastrointestinal illness among school children at nine different schools were reported during February 2003–May 2004 to the Massachusetts Department of Public Health (MDPH). These outbreaks occurred among children who ate lunch provided by the schools and were characterized by short incubation periods and short durations of illness. The clinical and epidemiologic characteristics of the outbreaks were similar to those of previously reported outbreaks of vomiting associated with burritos served at multiple schools in the United States in 1997–1998 (1,2). Epidemiologic investigation of the 1997–1998 outbreaks implicated burritos made with flour tortillas as the suspect vehicle; no etiologic agent was identified, but symptoms suggested either a biotoxin or chemical agent. This report describes epidemiologic and laboratory findings from three of the 10 outbreaks in Massachusetts. Consumption of flour tortillas from a single manufacturer was significantly associated with illness. Preliminary results indicated elevated levels, relative to common industry practices, of potassium bromate and calcium propionate in the implicated tortillas. School officials should be aware of the need for rapid action during outbreaks with short incubation periods and short durations and should notify local and state health officials immediately to ensure rapid response and collection of epidemiologic information, clinical specimens, and food samples.