The Louisiana dish ‘Jambalaya’ rose to worldwide fame in the 1990s thanks to the global success of the movie Mrs Doubtfire. In an ending scene, Mr Pierce Brosnan, the nemesis to the late Mr Robin Williams’ character Mrs Doubtfire orders the Louisiana typical dish and states to the waiter not to make it too spicy. Mrs Doubtfire then goes to the kitchen and adds some ground cayenne pepper to it. Classic scene.
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That movie came to my mind when being informed of what had happened in Caldwell Parish, Louisiana earlier this week, where a high school softball fundraiser sold 300 plates of chicken and sausage jambalaya. The special ingredient: salmonella.
The Mayor of Caldwell Parish, Mr Richard Meredith, said: "I've never seen anything like it. It's affected a lot of people, maybe a couple of hundred from my best estimation."
By the end of the week, some 125 people have gotten sick, 31 of those had to be taken to hospital and one person died (though health officials are waiting for autopsy results to confirm if this was salmonella alone).
The Department of Health spokeswoman, Ms Samantha Hartmann stated that the illness made no distinction amongst those invited: "the ages of those with a confirmed illness range from 15 years old to 70."
Furthermore, the warning was widened: ““the Louisiana Department of Health urges anyone who purchased food from the fundraiser to throw away any food that has not yet been consumed. This includes side items that may have come in contact with the jambalaya.”
Local Doctor Mr Holcombe says salmonella is extremely common in chicken, but notes that there is one way to try and prevent an outbreak, "Be extremely careful in the preparation techniques, all products have to be stored at the right temperature, you don't leave huge quantities of food that are out for more than two hours, hot food needs to stay hot and has to be hot all the way to the centre.”