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August 24, 1984

Staphylococcal Food Poisoning Associated With an Easter Egg Hunt

Author Affiliations

From the Department of Maternal and Child Health, University of California, School of Public Health (Dr Merrill), and the Infectious Disease Section (Dr Werner) and the Microbial Diseases Laboratory Section (Mr Bryant), California Department of Health Services, Berkeley; and the Stanislaus County Public Health Department, Modesto, Calif (Dr Kelly and Ms Fredson). Dr Merrill is now with the Section of Maternal and Child Health, Arkansas Department of Health, Little Rock.

JAMA. 1984;252(8):1019-1022. doi:10.1001/jama.1984.03350080021020

Staphylococcal contamination of intact, hard-boiled eggs resulted in the food poisoning of an estimated 300 children out of 850 who had participated in an Easter egg hunt. Enterotoxigenic staphylococci that were isolated from the Easter eggs matched that obtained from an infected cook who prepared the eggs three to five days before the hunt and which he left unrefrigerated. Experimental studies demonstrated that heated eggs can absorb 2 mL of contaminated cool water through intact eggshells. When water was inoculated with pathogenic staphylococci at even low contamination levels, rapid growth and enterotoxin production within cooked eggs could be easily duplicated. This is the first large outbreak of its type; safeguards can and should be employed to prevent future ones.

(JAMA 1984;252:1019-1022)

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