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Florida office party ends with food poisoning outbreak

ORLANDO, Fla. — Dozens of people attending an office holiday party in central Florida fell violently ill from apparent food poisoning, authorities said on Thursday.

Food samples were being tested to determine the cause of the outbreak at a catered event on Wednesday, when guests began complaining of illness within two hours of the party’s start.

Emergency responders evaluated 200 people, treating 55 at the scene and sending 25 to hospitals, said Kimberly Neisler, fire chief of Maitland, Florida, a suburb of Orlando.

Other guests drove themselves to emergency rooms, she said, adding that the U.S. Department of Homeland Security was called as a precaution.

Neisler said the patients were all in stable condition, although some had suffered extreme abdominal symptoms.

The party was hosted by a property management company for about 700 people in an office building, Neisler said.

Local health officials are monitoring the testing of specimens from the hospitalized patients, according to Dain Weister, a regional spokesman for the Florida Department of Health.

The state Department of Business and Professional Regulation was investigating the process of food preparation and service with the caterer, he said.

Weister said it could take weeks to identify a pathogen.

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