How food poisoning killed memories at UCU staff party

(On The Shelves)


December 16 started like any other day for Uganda Christian University (UCU) staff. For weeks, the university staff had eagerly looked forward to the day for their end of year party.

Every year, the university organises a staff party where teaching and non-teaching staff members converge and are treated to a mouthwatering feast.

The meal is served after a special set of prayers to thank God for seeing the institution through the challenges of the year.

But the 2016 end of year party didn’t end well for many staff, who attended.

Dozens of them, after devouring the meal, started complaining of severe stomachache and diarrhoea.

Elizabeth, one of the staff, narrated that when she got home from the party, trouble started.

“Before going to bed, I took juice and drifted off to sleep but by the time I woke up at 5:00am, I had diarrhoea. I went back to sleep after passing and woke up again at 7:00am with the same problem,” she said.

“I thought it was the juice I took until I learnt about the cases at Allan Galpin.”

Elizabeth’s problem persisted until later in the evening when it stopped on its own.

Another staff member who works with his wife at UCU said they developed the running stomach at the same time in the night  and competed for the bathroom.

Although Allan Galpin declined to say the number that was treated, Christine Namatovu, a medical clinician who was on duty the following day after the party, explained that as soon as they started receiving cases of stomachache and diarrhoea among staff, they suspected food poisoning.

“After our investigations, we certainly concluded that it was food poisoning and we prepared for the worst case scenarios,” Namatovu said.

“However, the situation didn’t run out of control as we had anticipated since most patients had mild infections.”

Namatovu explained that food poisoning is caused by eating contaminated food.

“Food contamination can be caused by a number of things including poor handling, wrong preparation like (mixing meats with sea foods or vegetables), use of contaminated containers and the temperatures at which the food has been kept,” she said.

She added that food poisoning can even happen to anyone in the comfort of their homes.

A senior health official at Allan Galpin told The Standard that to reduce cases of food poisoning in the past within the university, all food suppliers were screened before being cleared to offer services.

Allan Galpin would  screen suppliers with the help of the office of the DVC External Relations, after which it issued certificates of approval, the source said.

But the catering service that supplied food on the staff party was neither UCU’s guest house nor the dining hall.

The Standard has learnt that Allan Galpin staff did not screen the service provider because she was outsourced by the Human Resource office.

In an email sent out to staff after the incident, the Human Resource department explained that the service provider had been the same for the previous four years and that there had been no such incident.

“Since we have had no such incident in the past with the service provider, we are still trying to establish what caused the incident,” the email read.

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