The Rhode Island Department of Health is investigating the occurrence of allergic-type reactions in school students Friday that are associated with the consumption of kiwi fruit.
Health department officials say they received reports of approximately 34 students experiencing symptoms, including itching of the lips and mouth, hives and tongue swelling.
Fresh kiwi fruit was consumed immediately prior to onset of these reactions.
Some of the students were treated in the school setting, and a few at the emergency department, with antihistamines and all improved.
The health department says the cause of the reaction is unknown at this time. Reports have been confirmed from the 14 following schools:
• Blackstone Valley Prep 1, Cumberland
• Blackstone Valley Prep 2, Cumberland
• Blackstone Valley Prep 3, Cumberland
• Vartan Gregorian, Providence
• Southside Elementary Charter, Providence
• Globe Park School, Woonsocket
• Illuminar at ACH 1st, Providence
• Highlander, Providence
• Frank Spaziano Annex, Providence
• Times 2 Academy, Providence
• Nathaniel Greene, Pawtucket
• Anges Hennessey, East Providence
• Silver Springs, East Providence
• Orlo Avenue, East Providence
A Rhode Island Health Department spokesperson says the fruit was cut and bagged at Roch’s Fresh Foods in West Greenwich. Officials say Roch’s has been very cooperative as the department of health works with schools to ensure that all the fresh fruit from this distributor is discarded.
“We’re working very closely with them and in the next couple of days and next couple of weeks we’re going to be doing an investigation to see why this happened,” said RIDOH spokesperson Joseph Wendelken.
In addition, the distribution of kiwis from Roch’s Fresh Foods has been suspended. Because fruit had also been distributed to Massachusetts, RIDOH is coordinating with the Massachusetts Department of Public Health.
RIDOH says it’s unlikely that any delayed allergic reaction will occur.
“If they’re concerned or they’re worried, it wouldn’t hurt to contact a healthcare provider,” Wendelken said.
In a statement, a U.S. Department of Agriculture spokesperson told NBC 10 “USDA’s Food and Nutrition Service takes food safety seriously. We are aware of this situation and are working alongside State officials to investigate the cause.”