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200 Pupils Poisoned by School Dinner

More than 200 primary school pupils have been struck down with food poisoning after eating their school lunch on Thursday in Foshan, south China's Guangdong Province.

Forty-three were still in hospital by Friday noon, although none are said to be in danger and are expected to be sent home in the next day or two days, according to a doctor from Lishui People's Hospital in Foshan, Guangdong.

Other children who received hospital treatment were discharged by Thursday night. Foul play is not suspected.

The children began falling ill, complaining of stomachache, vomiting and violent twitching during afternoon lessons.

Police were alerted and helped organize the transfer of the children to hospital. Police are currently investigating the cause of the mass poisoning.

Ten school buses were used to ferry the youngsters to four local hospitals for emergency treatment.

Food poisoning was quickly diagnosed and more than 150 pupils needed to have their stomachs pumped before being put on intravenous drips.

Under-cooked fish and contaminated meat balls prepared in the school canteen are the suspected culprits.

The youngsters, aged between nine and 12, are pupils at Qifeng Primary School in Lishui Township of Nanhai District in Foshan.

It is thought to be one of the most extensive child food poisoning outbreaks ever reported in Guangdong, which borders Hong Kong and Macao special administrative regions.

The incident has raised great concern with the Guangdong provincial and Foshan municipal governments.

A special task force consisting of police and public health officials has been set up to further investigate the case and, where appropriate, punish those responsible.

Police have ruled out any suggestion that the poisoning was deliberate.

Foshan municipal government has decided to launch a sanitary inspection campaign starting on Monday, and relevant departments and companies will be required to take concrete and effective measures to prevent any further food poisoning incidents from occurring in the city.

School and workplace canteens, restaurants, local food markets and food bazaars will be the major targets of the inspection campaign.

(China Daily September 11, 2004)

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