Investigation of an outbreak of vomiting in nurseries in South East England, May 2012

M. Nicholls*, B. Purcell, Caroline Willis, Corinne Amar, S. Kanagarajah, D. Chamberlain, D. Wooldridge, J. Morgan, James McLauchlin, K. A. Grant, L. Harvey-Vince, M. Padfield, R. Mearkle, J. Y. Chow

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

11 Citations (Scopus)


On 30 May 2012, Surrey and Sussex Health Protection Unit was called by five nurseries reporting children and staff with sudden onset vomiting approximately an hour after finishing their lunch that day. Over the following 24 h 50 further nurseries supplied by the same company reported cases of vomiting (182 children, 18 staff affected). Epidemiological investigations were undertaken in order to identify the cause of the outbreak and prevent further cases. Investigations demonstrated a nursery-level attack rate of 55 out of 87 nurseries (63·2%, 95% confidence interval 52·2-73·3). Microbiological tests confirmed the presence of Bacillus cereus in food and environmental samples from the catering company and one nursery. This was considered microbiologically and epidemiologically consistent with toxin from this bacterium causing the outbreak. Laboratory investigations showed that the conditions used by the caterer for soaking of pearl haricot beans (known as navy bean in the USA) used in one of the foods supplied to the nurseries prior to cooking, was likely to have provided sufficient growth and toxin production of B. cereus to cause illness. This large outbreak demonstrates the need for careful temperature control in food preparation.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)582-590
Number of pages9
JournalEpidemiology and Infection
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 1 Feb 2016

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  • Bacillus cereus
  • bacterial infections
  • outbreaks


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