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School Lunch Suspected in Chinese Food Poisonings

A week after an apparent food poisoning incident at a Kunming, China elementary school, nine children remained hospitalized Monday. Food poisoning was initially blamed for putting 368 children in the Kunming hospital, which located in the Yunnan province in southwest China, on April 9.

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Now there are new reports of two other food poisoning incidents in recent days in the same area.

Ramifications are swiftly following the elementary school illnesses.  Two school principals lost their jobs April 13 when the county government investigation team said it found the school canteen involved was operating without health department certification and the Chinese State Food and Drug Administration, on its website, said local health authorities should conduct food safety inspections in school canteens throughout the nation.

Chinese food safety officials say the April 9 outbreak is the third experienced recently in the Yunnan province. The others were on March 13, when yolk pie sickened 203 students, and the other was on April 11, when 203 students at another school became ill following lunch.

China started a school nutrition program on March 1, paying 3 yuan or about 47 cents per day per student for school lunches. All three Yunnan school-based food poisoning incidents occurred after that date.  

China Daily quoted a local nutritional expert who said the rural schools lacked the management and equipment needed to safely implement the new school lunch program.

Since last week, 359 children — all students in the rural primary school — were released from the hospital. They have all returned to classes. The children who remained hospitalized were said to be in stable condition.

The week-old investigation continues and China’s food safety authorities have ordered the Dingla Primary School to suspend serving lunches while the probe is underway.

The food poisoning appears to have occurred at lunch. The students’ symptoms included vomiting, diarrhea and fever.  

Kunming is both the capital and largest city in Yunnan.

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