The Arkansas Department of Correction has confirmed that food poisoning caused by salmonella bacteria from improperly handled chicken was the culprit behind an outbreak of nausea and diarrhea that sickened 360 inmates and several prison employees at the Tucker Unit earlier this month.
DOC spokeswoman Shea Wilson said that the prison system was continuing to work with state agencies to determine what led to the incident.
“We are still working with the state health department and are continuing with our own internal investigation to determine how this happened,” Wilson said. “We know that there were problems with the handling of the chicken as far as temperature control goes.”
Wilson said that the chicken may not have been refrigerated quickly enough after it was cooked and was instead left out for too long.
Wilson said that inmates prepare the meals under the supervision of kitchen staff employed by the DOC.
“Of the approximately 360 inmates who displayed symptoms, everyone is well as far as symptoms go but we do have 56 who still test positive for salmonella and we will continue to do periodic checks of stool samples until the bacteria is no longer present in their systems.”
Inmates were served chicken salad Aug. 4 and came down with symptoms of food poisoning shortly thereafter, according to Wilson.