More Questions Than Answers About Death of 8-Year-Old Boy from Strawberries Purchased at Fundraiser


A tragedy is being investigated in Madisonville, KY, after police were called to the home of an 8-year-old boy who was found unresponsive and declared dead at the hospital some time later.

At about 6:30AM on Thursday, March 15, 2024, Madisonville Police were contacted regarding the boy who was not breathing and found unresponsive.

Upon arrival at the home, they learned that the family had already brought the boy to a nearby hospital emergency room. He was declared dead a short time later.

The family said that on the previous evening, the boy had eaten some strawberries purchased that day at his school fundraiser and showed signs of a rash from an allergic reaction. They gave him Benadryl and a cold bath, but at 10:30PM when the rash did not subside, they took him to the ER.

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The boy was discharged at 1:30AM and returned home, where he changed into his pajamas and went to bed.

When they attempted to wake him up for school the next morning, he was found unresponsive.

The boy’s body was subsequently transported to the local medical examiner’s office to undergo an autopsy.

Detectives investigating at the ER learned that several others had come in for treatment after consuming strawberries believed to have been purchased from the same fundraiser. As a precaution, the Hopkins County Health Department issued a warning:

The Hopkins County Health Department is issuing a caution advising citizens not to eat any strawberries purchased by the school fundraiser for Madisonville North Hopkins High School and Hopkins County Central High School athletics. 

Currently, the Department of Public Health Environmentalists are taking samples of the strawberries to the state lab for testing.  Although, this incident could be unrelated, the decision has been made to exercise caution and advise not eating any of these strawberries. 

I have advised the schools to dispose of any strawberries brought by students in lunches today.  Please do not send any strawberries to school until further notice. 

There were 443 flats distributed by North and 535 flats distributed by Central; these are distributed by Juicy Fruit LLC, Southern Grown and Sizemore Farms are the farms.

We will keep the public informed on our Facebook and website for Hopkins County Health Department.

Denise Beach, MS, BSN, RN
Public Health Director

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Reportedly, rumors began circulating that the strawberries had been laced with fentanyl or some other adulterant, for which there was no factual basis or substantiation.

Later the health department issued the following update:

According to Dr. Christopher Kiefer, Medical Examiner, the incident involving strawberries looks like an isolated allergic reaction. He relates that this is a preliminary report, so we still advise not eating the strawberries currently.

We appreciate your cooperation and patience as we get information to you as quickly as possible.  Please refrain from contacting the hospital or medical offices unless you need medical care, as they are not able to take all these calls.  We will keep you informed.

Denise Beach
Public Health Director

Here is a report from NewsNation describing the incident:

We at send our heartfelt condolences to the family for their terrible loss. Although we know little about them, we do know the allergic community grieves with them.

When tragedies like this occur, we usually provide strategies for allergic individuals to follow in an effort to prevent similar occurrences. But this is a unique situation where little information was provided.

We are, however, left with a number of questions we hope will be answered during the course of the investigation:

Did the boy have any preexisting food allergies or conditions?

If he did, was he prescribed epinephrine, and did the family have it on hand when he experienced what appeared to be a severe reaction? Were they told to administer Benadryl by their physician even though this practice is no longer considered appropriate as antihistamine can mask signs of anaphylaxis?

What happened at the ER?

We presume the boy was seen and eventually discharged by hospital staff during the family’s three-hour stay at the emergency room. Is this presumption correct, or did the family leave before a medical professional saw the boy? Was the boy given epinephrine during his stay? Was the family warned about the possibility of a biphasic reaction when anaphylaxis subsides for a number of hours and then recurs later? Were they given an epinephrine auto-injector upon leaving the hospital?

How could this have been an isolated incident when others who had consumed the strawberries visited the same ER on the same night with similar complaints?

According to New York Allergy and Sinus Centers, although limited data are available on the prevalence of strawberry allergy, one study found that 3 to 4% of children aged 2 and under were allergic to strawberries, a number that dropped below 1% later in childhood and adulthood. It is unlikely that a number of school-aged children who had not been previously diagnosed suddenly developed strawberry allergies at the same time. How is this possible? Could there have been some other trigger, like a pesticide or herbicide that was sprayed on the fruit?

Stay tuned. We will follow up with answers once they become available.

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Dave Bloom
Dave Bloom
Dave Bloom is CEO and "Blogger in Chief" of

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