Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Food illnesses at GEO detention facility.

Hundreds of detainees fell sick from apparent food poisoning at the Northwest Detention Center near Tacoma, Washington. Northwest is a 1,000 bed immigrant detention center owned by GEO, a private corporation that holds contracts with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) for facilities across the country.

Read full article.

SCOTT FONTAINE; The News Tribune Published: December 10th, 2007 01:00 AM

Hundreds of detainees were sick. Many complained of severe abdominal cramps and diarrhea. The medical staff was called in early but couldn’t cope with the long lines.

The culprit was Clostridium perfringens, a foodborne bacterium that poisoned hundreds at the Northwest Detention Center on Tacoma’s Tideflats in August, according to public documents recently released to The News Tribune.

The incident also fueled criticism of the 1,000-bed privately operated immigration detention center, which has been the subject of protests in Tacoma.

The poisoning likely began Aug. 11 with a lunch of turkey and potato casserole. Many detainees wrote in surveys that the meat served that day looked raw and smelled odd. The department’s food experts believe the potatoes – which were cooked the day before, cooled and reheated for the meal – allowed the bacteria to flourish.

By about 9 p.m., about 300 detainees were ill, most with diarrhea. Detention center staff told detainees they had to wait until the in-house medical clinic opened in the morning, but the volume of complaints prompted the administration to call clinic staff at 4 a.m. and ask them to come in early.

Only 197 people were seen at the medical clinic.

“Others likely came to the clinic but left without being seen, due to long lines,” the Health Department’s investigation report states. Most people, the report continues, recovered rapidly, and no one required hospitalization.