Sure enough, the next e-mail from the Maryland department said the survey had been discontinued because the link and password had been posted on the Web. About 400 people completed the survey before it was shut down, and 100 of them reported getting sick.
Five days later, on April 22, the Maryland department sent another e-mail. It had a new link to the survey and a new password. It also included a request that the link and password not be shared.
As of May 8 there haven’t been any updates from the Maryland or Baltimore health departments.
I am left with nagging questions, as an attendee and as a journalist:
- Why did it take a full week for the department to send out the initial notice and survey?
- Why wasn’t the initial survey constructed so that individual attendees had specific passwords to protect the integrity of the investigation?
- Why did it take five more days for another survey link to be set up, and why weren’t individual passwords used for it?
- How can the public rely on government agencies to determine the causes of foodborne illness outbreaks when basic security measures are not used during investigations?
I could also ask questions about how the food was served at the Food Safety Summit, which included attendees handling serving utensils at buffet tables and using bare hands to grab bread and condiments. Open bins of ice with scoops were available at every turn. Attendees repeatedly handled the scoops and tossed them back into the ice.
The Food Safety Summit provided an incredible amount of valuable information about best practices, how to comply with regulations and why regulations are important.
However, the irony of the foodborne illness outbreak will be the lingering take away for me.
What's your take? Leave a comment and tell us your opinion.