Probe into college canteen tuna food poisoning

More than a dozen ambulances were dispatched to Edinburgh College's Granton campus. Picture: Greg Macvean
More than a dozen ambulances were dispatched to Edinburgh College's Granton campus. Picture: Greg Macvean
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HEALTH inspectors were today investigating after nine students and a lecturer were hospitalised with food poisoning from eating spoiled tuna in a college canteen.

All ten were rushed from Edinburgh College’s Granton campus to hospital with suspected scombroid food poisoning after eating tuna sandwiches.

Horrified witnesses told how the victims were vomiting and struggling to breathe, and said their faces suddenly turned “swollen, red and blotchy”.

The college, NHS chiefs and the city council’s environmental health experts are now working to establish the cause of the outbreak, which has already been linked to a batch of tuna used to make sandwiches sold in the campus canteen.

More than a dozen ambulances rushed to the campus after receiving an emergency call yesterday afternoon.

All the victims are said to have responded well to treatment, as other students said they had been left stunned by the incident.

Eden Hunter, 18, a beauty student, said: “It was scary – we were told it could be contagious before it was found to be caused by the tuna. It’s shocking that it could have come from the food in the college. I only ate the tuna yesterday.”

Students said they were evacuated from the college’s beauty and sports departments by police and found its car park filled with ambulances.

They said it was initially believed that symptoms suffered by the victims were an allergic reaction to substances being used in a beauty therapy classroom.

But it is now thought that inadequately refrigerated and preserved fish was to blame.

Ms Hunter said: “I heard there were five from our department and two from sports who had some kind of contact with the tuna, and came out all red and blotchy. It looked like some kind of

anaphylactic shock.

“We were told to stay in our classrooms. Then the police came and we were all told to leave. They were not letting anyone else in.”

Emma Rowsell, 19, an HNC student in social care, said: “I’m friends with someone who’s in that class and she said that six people had been eating the tuna, as well as one lecturer.

“And all of a sudden, their faces were swollen, they were throwing up and they couldn’t breathe.

“The whole beauty and therapy section was closed and evacuated. They were all told to go home.”

College chiefs said they thought the tuna was to blame, with an investigation set to also involve NHS and environmental health teams.

A college spokeswoman said: “An isolated incident occurred where a small number of students and staff suffered a reaction.

“The incident is under investigation, but it is believed that this may be linked to a batch of tuna sandwiches.

“An ambulance team from Scottish Ambulance Service attended to a small number of patients on site, who responded well to treatment.”

A city council spokeswoman said tests were under way on the spoiled tuna.

She said: “Our environmental health officers are working with NHS Lothian following reported cases of food poisoning. We have taken food samples for testing from Edinburgh College and will work with them to establish the source of the issue.”

Dr Duncan McCormick, consultant in public health and health policy at NHS Lothian, said: “We are aware of several cases of probable food poisoning which are associated with one location in Edinburgh. All of those cases are receiving the appropriate medical care.

“We are working closely with our partners at City of Edinburgh Council environmental health to identify and control the potential source.”


SCOMBROID food poisoning is an illness caused by eating spoiled or decayed fish.

It is usually reported with mackerel, tuna, bluefish, sardines, anchovies and related species of fish inadequately refrigerated or preserved after being caught.

Symptoms can begin any time up to two hours after eating the fish. The most common are rash, diarrhoea, flushing, sweating, headache, and vomiting.