Boy, 8, Dies After Eating Strawberries; Allergic Reaction Suspected

in Food Allergy, Food Allergy News, Fruit & Vegetable
Published: March 17, 2024
Strawberries in wooden boxes.
Photo: Getty

An 8-year-old boy has died of after eating strawberries from a Madisonville, Kentucky high school fundraiser. The cause is not yet clear, but a severe allergic reaction is suspected.

The Hopkins County Health Department said in a news release that Madisonville’s chief medical examiner that “the incident involving strawberries looks like an isolated allergic reaction.” [See our April 2024 update here: the medical examiner ruled the cause was not an allergic reaction.]

However, Denise Beach, the department’s Public Health Director, adds that the health department is still advising people not to eat strawberries sold at fundraisers at two local high schools. She notes that examiner Dr. Christopher Kiefer “relates that this is a preliminary report” on the cause of the death.

In an earlier release, Beach said Health Department staff were taking samples from various flats of the strawberries to the state lab for testing. In the meantime, the Health Department has issued an advisory not to eat any of the strawberries.

The Madisonville Police Department is also investigating.

Strawberries Tragedy: What Happened?

The department’s Major Jason McKnight said in statement that the boy “consumed several strawberries” from the school fundraiser on March 14. He continued that the “boy began showing signs of an allergic reaction primarily manifested with a rash.”

The family then gave him Benadryl and put him in a bath. When his allergy-like symptoms did not subside, McKnight says they took him to the hospital at about 10:30 p.m. McKnight said in an interview with local TV outlet 14News that they left the ER about 1:30 a.m., not having seen a doctor. Back home, the boy changed clothes and went to bed.

About 6:30 a.m. on March 15, according to 14News, the family found the boy unresponsive and called police. The police met the family at the ER, and say the child died soon afterward.

Whatever caused this child’s death is tragic. But one thing that seems odd for an allergic cause is that true allergic reactions are usually individual medical events. McKnight says hospital staff said other people also came to the ER after eating the strawberries.

He told reporters that they “were complaining of rashes and other ailments concurrent with some type of allergic reaction.”

The Health Department says Madison North Hopkins High School distributed 443 strawberry flats distributed at its athletics fundraiser. Hopkins County Central High had another 535 flats to distribute. The strawberries were produced by Southern Grown and Sizemore Farms and distributed by Juicy Fruits, LLC.

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