In the wake of a massive food poisoning incident that affected school children here, storekeepers were ordered to pull out similar goods from their display shelves while health authorities look into the substance that downed the pupils.
BY LYN V. RAMO
Posted by Bulatlat
MANKAYAN, Benguet (263 kms. north of Manila) – In the wake of a massive food poisoning incident that affected school children here, storekeepers were ordered to pull out similar goods from their display shelves while health authorities look into the substance that downed the pupils.
Local government officials led by Mayor Manalo Galuten formed a task force to monitor the display and sale of the listed items. He also ordered that goods with similar brands be pulled out from the shelves while investigations are under way.
Twelve of the 177 elementary school pupils earlier reported ill after ingesting candies taken from a pile of garbage on the roadside were still being treated in a public clinic as of press time.
Assorted snack goodies dumped November 28 along the road near the Tubo bridge in sitio Tabbak in barangay Sapid here initially downed 121 school children, 57 of whom were hospitalized for observation until November 30.
As of Thursday, police said monitoring done by teachers and the community yielded more affected children, increasing the number to 175.
By Friday afternoon, Benguet Governor Nestor Fongwan received a phone call from Mankayan saying two more pupils showed up sick and were also admitted at the town’s Rural Health Dispensary. This raised the number of affected children to 177.
The school children, all from Palatong Elementary School in Upper Mankayan, felt nauseated. Some threw up, complaining of severe stomachache after eating the goodies that some of them took from a heap of garbage, which unidentified informants claimed, was dumped early morning that day.
At around 12:00 noon on November 28, Mankayan police received a text message from Anglican priest Fr. Jonathan Obar relaying a plea for help from a teacher of the said school. Responding policemen rushed most of the pupils to the hospital inside the Lepanto Consolidated Mining Company mine site and the nearby RHU dispensary, where they were treated for cramps, vomiting and headache.
Police investigation yielded more than 11 sacks of assorted candies, wafers, cheap chips and frozen pops, including nata de coco, corn and green peas which are normally sold in village stores throughout the country. These were later set afire upon order of the local town council to prevent any further food poisoning.
“These were dumped along with garbage emptied near the road,” Police Senior Inspector Fernando S. Botangen told Nordis in an interview, November 30. He said he has forwarded samples of the hot goods to the Bureau of Food and Drugs (BFAD) for testing on Saturday. He learned, however, that these were to be forwarded to the central office because the tests could not be done in Baguio City.
At the time of the interview, 17 were still confined, at the mine hospital and at the RHU dispensary. As of Thursday, however, another 12 patients came up for treatment while those confined earlier have gone home. On Firday, two more were admitted for the same ailments.
According to the chief of police, “While the goods are legal per se, the manner of disposing of the probably spoiled goods may be improper. Whoever dumped it there has to assume responsibility over what happened.”
Police listed down the brand names and manufacturers of the 22 items. The police also displayed samples of these in public utility jeepneys plying different barangays here to warn residents of the hazard that the said goods might be bring to anyone.
Pending investigation results, Botangen disclosed that there are ambulant retailers who roam towns in Benguet every Sunday to deliver and sell such items collectively called “junk” food. He said he may place these itinerant business persons under observation.
As this developed, the town council allotted some P150,000 ($3,042 at an exchange rate of $1=P49.298) from the calamity fund for medicines and related supplies the patients might be needing, according to Councilor Donald Posayen. He also disclosed that Fongwan also sent medicines and bottles of dextrose from the provincial government. Northern Dispatch/Posted by (Bulatlat.com)