SICKNESS and diarrhoea struck down Sunderland City Council workers after they all tucked into the same buffet.
As the chief executive and other employees enjoyed refreshments during a two-day event – during national Food Safety Week – little did they know that something sinister was lurking on the vol-au-vents and sausage rolls.
Up to 50 staff are believed to have been affected by the outbreak, which resulted in the Health Protection Agency (HPA) being called in.
The HPA, which tackles health threats from infectious diseases and environmental hazards, said it was investigating the cause of the illness.
Food Safety Week, promoted by the Food Standards Agency, is when people are reminded to practice good kitchen hygiene.
A council employee, who asked not to be named, said: “People are not happy and they are still off work sick. I’ve been told that some of them are having to have blood tests done to see what it is. It’s quite a bad incident.”
A spokesman from the HPA said: “The Health Protection Agency has been informed this afternoon of reports of diarrhoea and vomiting among staff at Sunderland City Council who attended functions held at the Civic Centre last week.
“We are working closely with environmental health colleagues to investigate the cause of the illness.”
The authority’s cabinet secretary, Coun Mel Speding, said: “We will continue to work closely with partners to investigate the causes of this isolated outbreak of illness.
“The very small number of staff affected were advised to stay away from work for 48 hours to allow the symptoms to cease, and all are expected to return to work as normal this week.”
There are an estimated 1.7million cases of foodborne illness in England and Wales each year.