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89 Become Ill After Attending Conference; Food Poisoning Suspected

November 17, 1986

CLEVELAND (AP) _ Food served at a banquet was being tested for signs of food poisoning after 89 people who attended a conference were taken to the hospital, authorities said.

Police spokesman Robert Bolton said food poisoning was the most obvious possibility for the sudden attack of illness that struck the participants Saturday night, but other possibilities were not be ruled out. Results from tests on the food would not be available until Tuesday at the earliest, he said Sunday.

″We have to keep all avenues open,″ he said. ″But I don’t think it was foul play. There was no motive, no reason for it.″

The 89 women who became ill with symptoms such as vomiting and diarrhea were among about 850 participants of a conference at the Cleveland Convention Center of the National Coalition of Title I-Chapter I Parents, a group of parents of children involved in federal education programs for the disadvantaged.

All but 12 of the victims were treated and released within a few hours of the incident. By this morning only one, Elenore Jones, 51, of St. Louis, remained hospitalized. She was listed in satisfactory condition at Deaconess Hospital.

″The sudden onset shortly after eating and the fact they all kind of ate the same thing and they got the same symtoms ... really sounds like food poisoning,″ said Dr. Carla Streep O’Day, one of the people who treated the victims.

John Gribben, spokesman for Philadephia-based ARA Leisure Services, which catered the meal, said there was no indication that anything served at the banquet caused the illness.

There were ARA employees at the center who ate the same food served to the conference participants and did not become ill, said convention center manager Jim Glending.