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British schoolkids fall ill on Belgian trip – was it food poisoning?

Head of International Travel Law Nick Harris

Dated: 24th September 2015

50 Britons on a school excursion have been hospitalised in Belgium. It is believed the 46 Year-11 schoolchildren and 4 teachers were affected by food poisoning.

Members of the party, from Guiseley School in Leeds, began to feel ill as their coaches arrived at Zeebrugge on the trip's return leg.

Children taken ill on school trip to Belgium

Local officials barred the convoy from entering the port and emergency measures were taken, dispatching complainants variously to 7 hospitals in the district.

The Red Cross also helped in relief efforts, with those unaffected by illness transferred to a local hostel.

Uncomfortable end to yearly trip

The 80-strong party had been on a history studies tour, mounted yearly by the school, of the Somme and Ypres First World War battlefields.

According to a Leeds City Council spokesperson, 50 individuals needed overnight hospitalisation in Zeebrugge. 23 of the children and the 4 teachers were later discharged, with the entire party expected back in Leeds soon after.

Cause unclear says council – but food poisoning likely

The spokesperson said the illness's cause remained unclear. However, news reports in Belgium said members of the party were suffering with food poisoning when their coaches entered Zeebrugge.

Food poisoning illness abroad warning

And 1 parent later said he thought "1 or 2 children" had suffered from diarrhoea 2 days into the excursion. "But things got much worse as they were returning home."

An acting head of Guiseley School, Paul Clayton, said children and teachers have been medically examined. "While their conditions are not thought to be serious or contagious, as a precaution, they were kept in hospital and monitored overnight."

Children's conditions to be monitored

Mr Clayton added that more school staff travelled to Belgium to help. "Working with the Belgian authorities, we are hopeful that the children will be returning home [soon]. We will continue to work with public health to keep a close eye on all the children in the upcoming days."

Nick Harris, Simpson Millar's Head of International Travel Law, said the fact that the Red Cross were involved and pupils were spread around 7 hospitals in Belgium had been the cause of much anguish for parents.

Legal comment open quote"In the absence of verifiable information from the outset, families in Leeds understandably feared for the health of their children," Nick said.

"Clearly an investigation is needed to confirm the precise nature of the illness and why it should affect so many people on the same trip at the same time.

"All the evidence so far points to food poisoning, which could lead to substantial claims for compensation."

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