Confirmed: 80 sickened by food at Rifle Rodeo |

Confirmed: 80 sickened by food at Rifle Rodeo

Ryan Summerlin

Colorado health officials have confirmed that the 80 people who became ill after attending the Rifle Rodeo early this month were stricken with a foodborne illness.

Garfield County Public Health announced the state lab’s findings late Wednesday afternoon. Since the June 5 rodeo, the county and state health departments have had a team investigating the outbreak, using “nurses, licensed food inspectors, regional and state epidemiologists and the laboratory staff,” according to the county.

“Lab samples sent to the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment came back positive for Clostridium perfringens — a leading cause of foodborne illness,” according to a county press release.

“The illness is contracted from consuming large amounts of the bacteria, creating a toxin in the intestinal tract causing abdominal cramps and diarrhea.”

This type of illness occurs after food is left at unsafe temperatures, such as in undercooked meat, allowing the bacteria to spread, according to the county public health department. Typically, the illness subsides in about 24 hours.

Often these outbreaks occur in food prepared in large quantities for big groups and left out for long periods, according to Marler Clark, a law firm specializing in foodborne illness outbreaks.

This foodborne illness is so common, in fact, it’s often referred to as the “food service germ,” according to the law firm.

County public health officials said last week that no food inspections, which are normally required at such public events, occurred because the department was not informed about food being served at the Rifle Rodeo, which was held at the county fairgrounds.

“The Rifle Rodeo is a privately organized event. It should be noted that this particular food vendor has a primary location that has been inspected, is licensed and is regulated. In the case of the Rifle Rodeo, temporary event and coordinator permits were not submitted, therefore Garfield County Public Health was not aware of or able to inspect food at the event prior to the June 5 outbreak,” said Yvonne Long, executive director for Garfield County Public Health.

“One thing that we want the public to know is that for public events it is the coordinator’s responsibility to find out and comply with the rules, regulations, permits, sales tax requirements and licenses required to host an event,” she said.

However, county spokeswoman Renelle Lott said no fines would be levied in the incident.

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