SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — San Francisco Bay Area health officials warned the public Tuesday to throw out any leftovers from a community Thanksgiving meal they suspect sickened at least 16 people, including three who died.
Officials are still trying to determine what caused the illness, but they appear to have narrowed the source to a church-sponsored meal at the American Legion Hall in Antioch, California, an annual event that this year turned tragic.
The meal hosted by the Golden Hills Community Church is an annual tradition. Last Thursday's meal served 835 people, including homeless people, residents of assisted living facilities and anyone who wanted a holiday meal, health officials said.
On Friday and Saturday, eight people rushed to the Sutter Delta Medical Center in Antioch with "probably food-borne symptoms," the center said. Among those patients were the three who died. Four have been treated and released, and one remained hospitalized Tuesday.
On Tuesday, Contra Costa Health Services said it was investigating eight additional cases, bringing the total to 16, the East Bay Times reported. All 16 people ate at the community Thanksgiving meal.
The paper quotes officials as urging anyone with leftovers from the meal to throw them away.
It was a traditional meal of turkey, mashed potatoes, stuffing, green beans, bread and pies. Volunteers prepared the potatoes, green beans and stuffing on site, at a commercial-grade facility. The rest of the meal, including the turkey, was donated by other food facilities, Dr. Marilyn Underwood, environmental health director for Contra Costa Health Services, said Monday.
The three people who died on Friday and Saturday were residents at assisted care facilities called Minerva's Place and Minerva's Place IV, the East Bay Times reported.
"It's tragic. They were thinking that they would have a good Thanksgiving, and now they have passed away," Emerito Gonzalez, an administrator at the residences was quoted as saying. "I just want to know what happened. I don't want this to ever happen again."
Officials had initially said that all those sickened lived at the same assisted living facility, leading to suspicion that they could have become sick from food eaten at home or elsewhere.
Autopsies were being performed on the three deceased people Tuesday.
Contra Costa County coroner's officials said they could not release the names of those who died pending notification of next of kin.