01/13/2012 01:20 pm ET

Red Cross Food Poisoning May Be What Sickened Indiana Train Crash First Responders

Authorities are investigating whether the food served by the Red Cross on the scene of a three-train crash in Indiana caused the sickness many first responders reported after leaving the scene.

When police officers and firefighters who had been on the scene of last Friday's wreck in Valparaiso became violently ill, reporting bouts of vomiting and diarrhea, officials originally blamed the fire on site, or spilled chemicals from the freight trains, which were transporting ethanol, diesel fuel and some hazardous materials. But the health department in Porter County, Ind. is now investigating whether food provided by the Red Cross at the scene could be the culprit, CBS Chicago reports.

Although the clouds of smoke from fires fed by spilled diesel fuel prompted emergency personnel to evacuate an area near the crash site, a health department official fielding workers' complaints told Fox Chicago that the source "does not appear to be anything that came from the train."

Sgt. Larry Laflower, a spokesman for the Porter County sheriff's department who reported the same symptoms after being on the scene at the crash site, told CBS he knew of many police officers and firefighters who were sick through Monday. He fingered the meals served by the Red Cross as the common denominator in each case.

Health Department officials confirmed that an investigation is underway, but emphasized that they're only aware of about 20 cases of illness among the 300 people responding at the scene of the crash, according to Fox.