What caused children to have allergic reactions after eating kiwi at 14 RI schools?

Health investigators are trying to determine what caused dozens of Rhode Island school children to have allergic reactions after eating kiwi. 

Health investigators are trying to determine what caused dozens of Rhode Island school children to have allergic reactions after eating kiwi Friday.

More than 30 students at 14 schools were sickened.

Two of them went to the hospital, including Jennifer Ortiz’s son.

“His throat started to get itchy and his lips started to puff up immediately,” Ortiz told NBC 10 News Thursday.

“I have slept with my hand on my son's head the whole weekend to make sure he doesn't stop breathing,” she said.

Ortiz’s son was one of 10 students at Times Squared Academy in Providence that ended up in school nurse Rachael Cassidy's office, and one of two that she used an EpiPen on.

“They were swelling, tongue swelling, needed it right away,” Cassidy told NBC 10.

The mothers of both children said they are grateful to Cassidy.

“For saving my son's life,” Ortiz said, while Cassidy said, “I'm just happy that everyone's alright.”

But Ortiz still has plenty of concerns about how her son became ill.

“As a parent, I need to know what my kid ingested on Friday,” she said.

Ortiz said her son has allergies and food sensitivities, but that he is not allergic to kiwi and has had it at school before.

Investigators from the Rhode Island Department of Health have been at Roch's produce in West Greenwich, where the kiwis came from.

One possibility they are looking at is a fruit sanitizer called peracetic acid.

“The fact that the fruits were unpeeled makes us think that it was something on the exterior of the fruit,” Department of Health spokesman Joseph Wendelken told NBC 10.

The president of Roch's, Ray Roch, said that after talking to his crew, they did not use the sanitizer on the kiwis, just water.

Roch thinks the students had an allergic reaction to the kiwi itself, since the fruit can be an allergen.

Wendelken told NBC 10, “There are some people who are allergic to kiwis. That's a lot of people, though, to be allergic and have an allergic reaction. Again, we don't know what the source was. We don't know what the cause was. So, that's why we do investigations.”

The Department of Health is waiting for test results.

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