Pesticide mistaken for flour may have been responsible for the deaths of 27 schoolchildren in the Philippines last week, according to a report in the Philippine Daily Inquirer newspaper Sunday.
National Bureau of Investigation Director Reynaldo Wycoco was quoted saying that a can of pesticide resembling a flour container was found in the house of a vendor suspected of selling cassava sweets to the victims, who died of food poisoning.
Twenty-seven children aged seven to 13 died and more than 100 others fell ill after eating the sweets sold at the gates of San Jose Elementary School in Mabini, in the central island of Bohol.
"Right now, we're ruling out Racumin (a brand of rat poison) and hydro cyanide poison as the likely cause of death because there was no internal bleeding," said Wycoco.
"We're eyeing pesticide because the team we sent to Bohol found a can of pesticide which resembles that of the flour used to prepare the fried cassava." NBI experts in Bohol were hopeful they would be able to determine what caused the deaths by today or tomorrow.
One of the problems facing investigators has been the refusal of parents to allow autopsies to be carried out on the dead. But the family of a seven-year-old who died, Sherwin Asas, on Saturday agreed to have the boy's body exhumed for an autopsy.
(China Daily March 14, 2005)