Food Festival Makes More Than 100 Sick

More than 100 illnesses have been linked to the Taste of Chicago festival.

July 13, 2007 — -- From big cities to rural towns, food festivals are a summertime staple all over the country.

But a salmonella outbreak at last week's Taste of Chicago food festival is proof that what's served up isn't always safe.

The culprit is believed to be tainted hummus, which caused 120 attendees to get sick. The Chicago Department of Health is investigating the cases and has confirmed that nine of them were caused by salmonella bacteria. Ten people were hospitalized.

"I was dehydrated and had a high fever and chills," said Andrea Darlas, a Chicago radio reporter who went to the hospital after eating hummus.

Chicago officials have traced the outbreak to the Pars Cove Persian Cuisine restaurant, where hummus has been pulled off the menu. The owners are working closely with the health department.

"One case is too many," said Mike Bamboyani, owner of the Pars Cove. "We are taking all the steps that we can."

It's not the first time a mass outbreak has occurred at a food festival. In 2001, 300 people fell ill at an avocado festival in California, and 600 people became ill in 1991 at a Connecticut Oysterfest.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that there are more than 1 million reported cases of salmonella poisoning every year. But with symptoms that mimic the flu, some experts suspect many more occur.

"For every case that's reported, there are probably 20 to 30 cases that go unreported," said Michael Doyle, director of the Center for Food Safety at the University of Georgia.

He suggested food-festival attendees be cautious about eating raw or cooked meat, poultry, cold cuts, fish and eggs.