Schools should have protocols in place for handling food poisoning outbreaks that occur in their institution. Follow-up actions may include:
- Isolate students or staff who exhibit symptoms of illness and help them seek medical treatment as necessary.
- Advise other students to stop eating concerned food items immediately to prevent further food incidents from occurring.
- Record the following items to facilitate further investigation:
- Name list of students to whom meals are provided (with information such as the types of food served);
- Names of food suppliers and corresponding purchasing records; and
- Contact information of outsourced contractors.
- Submit a food incident report with details on:
- Meal consumption history, onset time, symptoms and medication; and
- Records of on-site checks on food storage, temperature control and personal hygiene for schools with in-house kitchens.
- Report suspected outbreaks to the Centre for Health Protection of the Department of Health as soon as possible so that timely preventive measures can be implemented
- Keep and provide food exhibits, if any, according to the instructions of the health inspectors.
- Step up personal and environmental hygiene measures according to the advice of the health authority.
Acute Gastroenteritis vs. Food Poisoning
While they might look alike, acute gastroenteritis is not equivalent to food poisoning.
Acute gastroenteritis is usually caused by viruses, most commonly norovirus, rotavirus and adenovirus, and occurs more frequently in winter. The modes of transmission include contact with vomitus or faeces from infected persons, contact with contaminated environment or objects and aerosol spread with contaminated droplets of splashed vomitus. Acute gastroenteritis outbreaks can happen in institutions where susceptible populations gather, such as schools, childcare facilities and nursing homes.
Food poisoning is usually caused by the consumption of contaminated food or water containing bacteria, viruses, parasites, biotoxins or chemicals. Victims of group food poisoning often share common food items in a meal, whereas this is not necessary in an acute gastroenteritis outbreak.
Guidelines on Prevention of Communicable Diseases in Schools / Kindergartens / Kindergartens-cum-Child Care Centres / Child Care Centres (Published by the Centre for Health Protection of Department of Health).