Cause of food poisoning outbreak at Salt Lake soup kitchen still unknown

Posted at 10:15 PM, Jun 01, 2015
and last updated 2015-06-02 16:46:51-04

SALT LAKE CITY -- Nearly 60 homeless people have been released from the hospital after getting food poisoning at shelter.

Now, the Salt Lake County Health Department is trying to figure out who and what caused it.

“I felt like my stomach was going to actually explode -- it felt like my intestines were going to explode. I started vomiting before the paramedics got there,” Mark Hofheins said.

Sunday night 55 people experiencing symptoms similar to food poisoning were rushed to the hospital.

“I've never been that sick in my life,” Hofheins said.

More than 20 others were bussed to area hospitals. Hofheins ties it to one meal they ate Sunday night.

“It was definitely from the dinner everyone that was sick ate at St. Vincent De Paul chow hall,” Hofheins said.

The Salt Lake County Department of Health is investigating but say it's too soon to know for sure if that's where the outbreak came from.

“Because of the large number of individuals, the severity of the illness, we were on site at the shelter as well as visiting some of the hospitals where individuals were taken to try to identify as quickly as possible to see testing that would be done and to characterize the illness,” said Ilene Risk an epidemiologist with the Salt Lake County Health Department.

The St. Vincent De Paul dining hall is the largest soup kitchen in Salt Lake City, serving a thousand meals each day.

“To hear that 50 of our homeless friends we sent to the hospital out of kindness out of people trying to do service is the worst thing we can think of,” said Danielle Stamos public relations director with the Catholic Community Services of Utah.

The Catholic Community Services of Utah say they’ve never had a situation like this.

“This is a huge issue for us, something we really want to get to the bottom of and make sure it never happens again,” Stamos said.

Those who were ill are now worried about how and where they will get their next meal.

“To be scared of a place to eat that feeds all of us, it's a scary situation, it's dangerous,” Hofeins said.

The Salt Lake County Department of Health says it will be two to three days before they have any updates on what caused the outbreak.