08 October 2005
By KAMALA HAYMAN
A Fear Factor-style contest that left two students suffering food poisoning after eating raw liver was held at Cashmere High School, it emerged yesterday.
On Thursday, Cashmere principal Dave Turnbull said he knew nothing about such a contest and condemned it as “utterly gross and appalling”.
However, Turnbull phoned The Press yesterday to apologise and explain the two victims of campylobacter food poisoning were Cashmere students.
Turnbull said he had known nothing about it, having been overseas for the past three weeks.
He left the day after between 20 and 25 of his students ate raw lamb’s liver during a lunchtime contest on school grounds.
“I still remain appalled,” said Turnbull. “It is gross and unacceptable and I’m certainly following it up.”
Turnbull said the contest was organised at the end of last term by the Spreydon Youth Community Trust, a group associated with the Spreydon Baptist Church.
Turnbull spoke to the organisers yesterday and hoped to meet them next week.
AdvertisementAdvertisement”I will be taking all steps to ensure such a thing never, ever happens again.”
However, he would not stop the trust’s involvement with the school.
“They are basically decent young people, but went over the line … basically they do good work.”
Spreydon Youth Community Trust operations manager Kate Divett said the trust organised “fun lunchtime events”, coached sports teams and offered peer mentoring for at-risk teenagers.
For the past two years it had held a contest based on TV’s Fear Factor, a reality show that challenged contestants to perform stunts described as either “pulse-racing or gross”.
Last year, the trust held Fear Factor-style contests at Cashmere, Hillmorton, Hornby and Riccarton high schools and repeated it this year at Cashmere and Hillmorton.
Divett said the contest was aimed at setting mental challenges for students. “They are things that might freak them out … where they are able to overcome something.”
However, the only challenge Divett could recall, other than eating raw liver, was a Weet-Bix eating contest.
The raw-liver challenge was held only at Cashmere High this year and only after a butcher advised it would be safe.
“We sought professional advice on what we could do safely and the advice we were given was this was OK. In hindsight, it wasn’t good advice,” Divett said.
She could not remember which butcher had given the advice, but she said in future the trust would seek advice from Community and Public Health.
Divett said it was “dreadful” that two young people had fallen ill but pointed out there were more than 80 cases of campylobacter reported in Christchurch last week.
Rates rise each spring partly due to the warmer weather and, in rural areas, increased exposure to animals.
Divett said the trust had previously had “nothing but positive feedback” for its activities.
Verkerks butcher Dan Manuel said Eastern Europeans were the most likely to buy raw liver to eat.
He said it was not part of the Kiwi culture, although he said upmarket restaurants did offer raw beef as steak tartare. The dish can also include raw eggs, which also pose a health risk.