In a span of two weeks, a dozen cases of mass food poisoning have been reported in different parts of the country, downing thousands, mostly students.
The latest in the rash of food poisoning incidents happened Friday, July 24 in Calamba City, Laguna. Around 400 students of Real Elementary School were rushed to different hospitals in the city after suffering from stomachache, vomiting, and dizziness. Reports said the students ate ice candies and cupcakes donated by AMS-Asian Inc., a company that sponsored a lecture in said school. Samples of the food have been submitted to the Food and Drug Administration for testing.
On July 22, three children in Lucena City were rushed to the hospital after eating puto (steamed rice cake). According to reports, the children complained of stomach pains mere minutes after consuming the native treat. The children’s father reportedly bought the box of puto for pasalubong and did not notice that no expiry date was posted on the label.
On July 20, six students of Ungka 2 Elementary School in Pavia, Iloilo were hospitalized after consuming chocolate candies. Reports said that candies were sold by another student. The contaminated candies were reportedly kept in the fridge for four days prior to being sold. Teachers were mum on the incident while authorities are still awaiting results of lab tests administered on the victims.
On July 19, twelve members of a family in Maguindanao were taken to a hospital after experiencing stomach pains, vomiting, and diarrhea. The victims reportedly had a lunch of grilled fish and macaroni. Lab test results showed one of the victims had amoebiasis.
On July 16, 57 pupils of Ala Central Elementary School in Sultan Kudarat fell ill after eating deep-fried squash fritters bought from a store outside their school. Reports said there were indications of food poisoning as the students suffered from severe stomach pains and bowel disorders. Police said samples of the food were sent to the provincial health office for testing.
In Quezon City, nine students of Juan Sumulong High School were rushed to Quirino Memorial Medical Center after showing symptoms of stomach pains, dizziness, and vomiting. The students ate free samples of macapuno candies that were allegedly distributed by men who were disguised as students. Candy samples tested positive for organophoshate, a pesticide. Reports said the candies were manufactured in Calauan, Laguna but authorities are yet to identify the seller and investigation is still underway.
On July 15, thirteen college students and a teacher were hospitalized after eating “pastil” inside the Sultan Kudarat State University’s campus in Lutayan town. “Pastil” is a Maguindanaoan dish made of steamed rice topped with chicken adobo flakes wrapped in banana leaves.
On July 13, seven children and a mother were hospitalized after eating homemade ube (yam) cake in Iloilo City. The kids were from Pakiad Elementary School while the mother ate the cake brought home by her daughter. Samples of the ube cake were sent to Research Institute for Tropical Medicine in Manila for laboratory tests.
On July 10, some 1, 350 persons, mostly children from Surigao del Sur suffered nausea, vomiting and abdominal cramps after eating durian candies tainted with still unidentified contaminant. Twelve suspects were arrested for selling the expired candies which were said to be originally manufactured by Wendy’s in Davao City. Prior to this, some 40 students in Kidapawan City also exhibited the same symptoms after eating durian from the same manufacturer. Health officials found out that the candies were positive for staphylococcus bacteria, which is commonly found on human skin.
On July 9, 15 students of Dualing Central Elementary School in Aleosan, North Cotabato were hospitalized after consuming siopao bought from their school canteen. The victims experienced abdominal pains and vomiting a few minutes after eating the contaminated food. They were diagnosed with acute gastritis.
In light of the alarming rise in food poisoning incidents, Department of Health spokesperson, Dr. Lyndon Lee Suy said that ensuring what one eats is safe is the responsibility not only of the government and food producers, but also of the public.
The Bureau of Food and Drugs and the Department of Health play significant roles in ensuring that the public is protected from food poisoning risks. Information dissemination is crucial. Educating the public on proper food consumption and encouraging people to make it a habit to read food labels and check expiry dates can significantly reduce incidence of food poisoning.
All food manufacturers and business operators must adhere to basic food safety requirements and controls to protect consumers.
School administrations, meanwhile, must implement austere measures in supervising handling of food in school canteens and checking food being brought in by different sponsors during programs and different school activities.
Awareness should also start at home. Parents must do their part in teaching their children not to eat just about any food without reading labels and checking expiration dates first, and encouraging them to bring their own food instead of buying from ambulant vendors and stores outside school.