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Pumpkin pie innocent in student illnesses, says school district

The Denair Unified School District called out the health department on Thursday, following a run of students getting sick after lunch but the cause of the illnesses remains unknown.

Denair community social media platforms blew up on Thursday as several parents posted about their children coming home sick with stomach problems after eating lunch. A letter to parents from Denair Unified Superintendent Terry Metzger on Friday shined more light on the situation.

DUSD reported that of the nearly 300 students who ate school lunch on Thursday, 19 reported upset stomachs ranging from nausea to vomiting. And almost all those students were in one fourth grade class at Denair Elementary Charter Academy.

Metzger said that after talking with some of the Denair Elementary Charter Academy students who became ill after lunch on Thursday, the school district originally suspected it could be caused by the pumpkin pie that was served. A call to the Stanislaus County Health Department brought out an inspector “within the hour,” according to Metzger, who looked at all the cafeteria’s facilities and protocols and tested food samples. The health department found no indication that any item served at lunch on Thursday was contaminated or spoiled, she said.

Metzger said that the health department considered other factors that could have caused the illness including pesticides that could have been sprayed recently, cleaning products that were used, equipment that was recently repaired, and if the students affected were related or had close contact with each other that could point to the flu or other transmittable illness.

“All areas investigated did not result in any clear answers,” stated Metzger.

By Friday morning all but three students were back in class and feeling well, according to the school district.

“We do not know what caused the problem, but we do want parents to know that we are continuing to monitor the situation. Our food services staff follows very strict guidelines and procedures on a daily basis and they take great pride in serving our students delicious and nutritious food,” said Metzger.