More than 700 employees became sick after a Christmas party celebration of an Airbus subsidiary in France earlier this month. A spokesperson for the European aeronautics company told CNN that the Airbus Atlantic employees “were taken ill after contracting a food-borne illness after eating the company-organized Christmas lunch.”
It is unclear what type of food the employees had. The December 14 incident did not lead to any employee becoming seriously ill. They were all back at work shortly after.
The Airbus spokesperson added that French health authorities are leading a probe into the incident. “This appears to be an isolated event and all employees are recovering well,” the spokesperson said. “The health of our employees remains our primary concern and we are fully cooperating with the ARS health agency to identify the cause of the illness and ensure this cannot happen again in the future.”
The affected people showed “clinical signs of vomiting and/or diarrhoea” after the seasonal dinner, The Guardian reported. Most of them became sick within 24 to 48 hours after having the food. Health officials are now investigating whether the cause of the illness was a bacterium in the food, or a very contagious gastroenteritis virus.
An employee named Nolwenn told the Ouest-France newspaper, “I had colic and headaches like I’d never had before. It was worse than giving birth.”
According to Jean-Claude Iribarren, the secretary of the Airbus Atlantic works committee, the company’s canteen had prepared the food. “As we do every year, we organised a Christmas dinner for 2,600 people with a lot of local suppliers,” he said.
“People have been a little hasty about the causes. We are obliged to keep samples of every product served in the restaurant. They will be analysed by the ARS [health authorities]. The investigation will take several more days,” he added.