Excerpted from Food Safety News: The pan-seared breast of Chicken Marsala served by the Baltimore Convention Center’s exclusive caterer was the food item most commonly consumed by the 216 attendees sickened by the lunch served last April 9 at the Food Safety Summit’s annual conference. It was likely contaminated with Clostridium perfringens (C. perfringens), a spore-forming gram-positive bacterium commonly found on raw meat and poultry.

Attendees at the popular conference were from 42 states, Canada, Mauritius and Costa Rica. The local health department learned of the illnesses not from the organizers of the event, the convention center, or the caterer, but from calls by attendees to the city’s 311 service.

According to the report being released today by the Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, the illnesses experienced at the 2014 Food Safety Summit in Baltimore were attributed to C. perfringens. Those sickened experienced symptoms of diarrhea, stomach cramps, nausea, headaches, chills, vomiting and fever between April 8-12, 2014.

About two-thirds of those sickened experienced the symptoms after eating the chicken lunch that was served by the Baltimore Convention Center’s catering company called Centerplate, according to the final report of the investigation that used epidemiological, environmental and laboratory methods to reach its conclusions.

As for the pathogen involved, the report states: “The frequency of signs and symptoms, duration of illness, and possible incubation period were consistent with outbreaks caused by C. perfringens. In this outbreak, almost all of the cases had diarrhea and only 10 percent reported vomiting, which is typical of outbreaks caused by C. perfringens.”

The outbreak was the first in the 16-year history of the Food Safety Summit. “When we learned that attendees to the Food Safety Summit were ill after attending the 2014 event we fully cooperated with the Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene regarding this matter and assisted them with their investigation as requested,” the organization said in a statement distributed by spokesperson Amy Riemer.  “We have continued to do so in the past six months while the investigation was conducted and the final report was being prepared.”

The statement adds that the Food Safety Summit is working with the convention center and its catering company prior to its 2015 event “to insure that an outbreak of this nature does not happen again.”

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