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Home   Tonbridge   News   Article

Investigation at Hilden Grange School in Tonbridge after 80 pupils and six staff members fall ill with suspected food poisoning

24 June 2014
by Annabel Rusbridge-Thomas

An investigation has begun after 80 pupils and six staff members from a Tonbridge school fell ill with suspected food poisoning. 

Those affected by the sickness outbreak at Hilden Grange School had to take time off last week.

Now both environmental health officers at Tonbridge and Malling Borough Council Agency and Public Health England are looking into the case.

Dozens of pupils and staff at Hilden Grange School fell ill. Picture Google Street View

Dozens of pupils and staff at Hilden Grange School fell ill. Picture: Google Street View

John Withers, head teacher of the private school in Dry Hill Park Road, said: "We can confirm that 80 children and six staff were affected by illness last week at the school.

"Following reports of pupils and staff becoming ill, the school was immediately in contact with the local environmental health department and with Public Health England."

The majority of pupils fell ill last Wednesday June 18. 

A spokesman for Public Health England said: "A team is working with Hilden Grange to investigate the outbreak and any possible sources but results are not yet available." 

Mr Withers has said that it is still too early to determine the cause of the incident. 

He added: "Environmental health officers have visited the school and are happy with our catering operation and for us to continue to serve meals as normal.

"Our professional caterer is also co-operating fully with the investigation and, as a highly regarded business, takes its responsibilities extremely seriously in this area."

The private school has kept parents fully informed throughout the process. Mr Withers said: "We want to thank parents for their understanding and support.

"We are continuing to follow advice from the relevant authorities. The safety and well-being of our pupils and staff is always our number one priority."

All pupils and staff have since returned to school.

"Our food preparation procedures on site complied with good practice and no obvious food related item was identified as the cause..." - Brookwood Partnership spokesman

A spokesman for The Brookwood Partnership, which runs catering at the school, said: "We were notified that a group of pupils and staff from Hilden Grange School reported falling ill last Wednesday evening.

"We are the caterers at the school and ensure that all reports of this kind are treated with the utmost seriousness.

"The environmental health office was notified and an officer attended the school the following morning together with two of our independent food hygiene specialists.

"They confirmed that our food preparation procedures on site complied with good practice and no obvious food related item was identified as the cause. They confirmed that they were satisfied food production could continue and did so the same day.

"We retain samples of food served, as standard practice, and the EHO took these for testing. They also took swabs in the kitchen as well as other areas of the school occupied by this group of children. Currently we have not had the results of these tests so the source of the sickness, at the moment, is unknown.

"As a specialist school caterer we take our responsibilities very seriously. The EHO recently awarded the kitchen at Hilden Grange a 5 star (the highest) rating and, in 2013, they were given a gold level award from Tonbridge and Malling Borough Council in their Healthy Eating Award scheme.

"In our own recent health and safety inspection (which is carried out by an independent assessor during an unannounced visit) very high standards were recorded throughout the kitchen.

"All food is prepared freshly on site and no other school has been affected."

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