THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: With two incidents of suspected mass food poisoning being reported in the district consecutively in the past two days, the district Health administration has sounded an alert to hoteliers and those selling food and soft drinks to ensure utmost care and hygiene while handling food.
It was on Friday that nearly 140 students from two city schools took ill after they consumed the mid-day meal served at their schools.
Close on the heels of the incident, 14 children belonging to a picnic group from a school at Kayamkulam, who had consumed ice-cream and soft drinks from the Museum premises and at Kovalam, also had to be rushed to the General hospital the next day with food poisoning symptoms. The children and teachers of the picnic group had pointed out on Saturday that the water from the packed bottles of drinking water they had bought from Museum premises had the strong odour of chlorine. This has given rise to doubts that the empty bottles of packaged drinking water were being re-used for selling tap water.
The District Collector had issued a directive that the Corporation and the Health authorities keep vigil on roadside shops and vendors selling food and soft drinks and to ensure that unsafe or contaminated food items were not being sold. Following this, local people took the lead on Sunday to destroy synthetic soft drinks and other sweetened and flavoured drinks from various parts in the district, including Kovalam and Neyyattinkara.
The district Health administration has directed that those selling food items take proper care to ensure that food was cooked in clean vessels, on hygienic premises and that food kept for sale is kept covered from dust and flies. Vessels used for storing water should be kept clean. Vendors have been told to serve only boiled water for drinking and that this water is not mixed with tap water. Stale food should not be reheated and served. Soft drinks should be prepared only in boiled and cooled water. The district Health administration has asked its field workers to be on the alert against the sale of food in unhygienic premises.
Meanwhile, all children who had been admitted to the General Hospital in the past two days after they displayed symptoms of food poisoning have been discharged. The authorities are still not sure about the source of contamination in the school mid-day meal that led to the mass food poisoning, as the same food had been served in several other schools in the city too.
It has also been pointed out that few children were actually sick and that most of the others had just suffered panic attacks
Though it is being speculated that poor quality rice could have been the cause for the infection, nothing can be said conclusively till the results of the food samples sent for analysis comes in, Health officials said.