The D.C. Environmental Health Administration is investigating an outbreak of food poisoning that struck at least 10 persons who attended a Federal City College luncheon Monday that was catered by an unlicensed firm.
The 10 people including faculty members and students, reported attacks of vomiting and headaches, soon after eating the lunch of beef burgundy over rice, tossed salad, rolls and sheet cake, said Bailus Waker, director of the Environmental Health Administration. Seventy persons attended the luncheon.
Walker warned city residents to be on the lookout for unlicensed moving around the city and offering services to people and preparing the meals in their homes."
Both the District and Maryland require that all caterers prepare food in places that have been inspected and licensed. A kitchen in a home does not qualify as an "approved facility" for food preparation in either jurisdiction, Walker said.
During the Christmas holidays five people attending a private party in Northwest became ill after eating food from an unlicensed caterer, Walker said. City officials are still considering whether to take legal action against the caterer, Walker said.
Walker recommended that persons looking for caterers ask if the firm is licensed and then ask to see the license.
Potential clients for caterers should also ask if the firm has facilities for keeping the food hot or cold while it is being brought to the place where it will be served, and if the food and beverages were purchased from a dealer approved by the U.S. Department of Agriculture or a local health department.
The city's Office of Consumer Affairs has further recommended that itemized list of all foods and services offered by the firm and make a written not an oral agreement with the caterer about the food and services to be provided and the total cost.
There are 200 licensed caterers in the District, Walker said. Citizens can call 629-3111 to find out if a company has a license and to obtain the latest information environmental health inspectors have about the companies. In addition, Walker said his inspectors will conduct special inspections of a company if a citizen requests it.
Walker's office inspects the food preparation facilities and transportation equipment of all caterers four times a year. In addition all food handlers working for times a year. In addition all food handlers working for the caterers must take a training course supervised by Walker's office.