Portugal: Health authorities watchful after ‘around 70 people’ fall ill during street food festival
At the time of going to press on Thursday three children were reportedly still in hospital.
A statement from the Regional Algarve Health Bureau (ARS), sent to The Portugal News, said that around 70 people had to be seen in hospitals after being struck down with food poisoning following a visit to the Street Food Festival in Portimão, which took place between 23 July and 2 August.
“On 30 July, 2015, at around 11pm, the Portimão Health Delegate was contacted due to the admission to local emergency rooms of people with clinical cases of gastroenteritis (fever, cramps, vomiting and diarrhoea) after eating food (suckling pig sandwiches)”, at the festival, the statement explained, adding: “An epidemiological investigation was immediately triggered, involving inspections of the establishment concerned and the gathering of food for analysis.”
ARS said the visitors to the street food festival who were admitted to hospital had been identified and enquiries carried out.
“According to the procedures to be followed in this type of event, the handlers [of the food] have been identified for tests and Emergency Rooms have been asked to proceed with the collection of faeces for the identification of the etiologic agent.”
Analyses are still being carried out but no results have been released as yet.
The ARS’s Public Health and Planning Department as well as the Western Algarve health authority’s Public Health Unit are monitoring the situation and have informed health and safety authority ASAE of the episode.
At the centre of the outbreak, according to reports, was a street food van selling suckling pig sandwiches.
The organisers of the event, which travels Portugal, reiterated that health authorities have carried out tests on the product in question and lamented the state of affairs.
“The health department of Portimão was called to intervene and collect analyses of the product. There are still no conclusions from them, but apparently the product was being kept in perfect storage conditions and was in order to be served, which suggests that it is a bacterium in a specific part of the pig served on Wednesday and Thursday”, the Street Food Portugal association explained.
It added that the vendor nonetheless “took the initiative to throw out the pig and its derivatives, on the day the inspection was done.”
Street Food Portugal asked for those affected by the bacteria to “get in touch with those responsible so the necessary procedures for the accountability of the incident can be made.”
Commenting on the Portimão Sempre Facebook page, a father said he had been left “profoundly angered” after his young son was struck down after eating at the festival.
The man, whose son allegedly spent a night in hospital with “a liver crisis, the result of a gastroin-testinal infection caused by the Salmonella bacteria”, said he was incensed as the outbreak could have been avoided “if there had been competence and sense of responsibility by those who caused this situation or who could have avoided it.”
He questions why – given, he claims, that the first cases of food poisoning emerged on the Wednesday (29 July) and were verified by health authorities by the Friday (31 July) – the supplier was not closed down immediately, or removed itself until the event had finished, or why the organisers did not close the event down altogether.
“What confidence can we have in those whose obligation it is to defend us?” he fired.
The Portugal News asked Portimão Council and ASAE for comment, but none had been received at the time of going to press.
At least 20 street food vendors were confirmed to take part in the Portimão Street Food Festival.
On the event’s website, www.streetfoodportugal.pt, it claims that in Portugal “there are around 100 entrepreneurs with street food businesses and the number grows every week.”
Street Food Portugal believes that today the street food sector has a market potential of €2.5 million and can grow by 20 percent per year, “bringing new dynamics to the catering industry and the cities.”
“Therefore, street food certainly deserved an association, and Street Food Portugal was born, an association that aims to defend the rights of those working in street food and its representation in Portugal and abroad, the promotion of Portuguese street food nationally and internationally, as well as the development, expansion and education about products that contribute to the sector’s growth.” During August and September the festival will be visiting cities including Faro, Costa da Caparica, and Oporto. – writes the ThePortugalnews.com