Julie Ann Grimm A snow cone machine could be the culprit in an outbreak of gastrointestinal illness that affected 30 children who are part of a city summer program.

The state Health Department took the machine from the Monica Roybal Center to its scientific laboratory for testing Thursday after investigators determined snow cones might be the source of the problem that erupted earlier in the week.

The children and four adults who work at the center suffered from vomiting and diarrhea on Tuesday and Wednesday and recovered after one or two days, according to a report from the state agencies.

Inspectors didn't find any health or safety violations at the center, but did instruct the city on how to thoroughly clean the area.

Community Services Department director Isaac Pino said Friday that he is awaiting the test results from the state agencies to determine whether the machine is to blame. Kids last enjoyed snow cones on Tuesday, he said.

"This time of year, it's a pretty popular piece of equipment," he said.

Food served at the center gets prepared elsewhere and delivered by vendors. No outbreaks were reported at the other youth summer program sites.

Health Department officials collected stool samples from some of the sick individuals for other bacteria testing that might also narrow down why the outbreak occurred. Comparing results from the biological samples and the snow cone machine investigations might point to the cause, said Chris Minnick, department spokesman.

"Because the city was good about alerting us right away, we may know the cause," he said, adding that gastrointestinal outbreaks that are commonly linked to restaurants are not always reported or identified very quickly. "Sometimes we never figure out what the culprit was."

The city has mailed letters to parents of children in the program to alert them of the outbreak, and provided prevention guidelines including proper handwashing and other health measures. Parents whose children have symptoms such as abdominal cramps, vomiting or diarrhea should keep them home, the letters say.

Contact Julie Ann Grimm at 986-3017 or jgrimm@sfnewmexican.com.

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