Officials in South Africa have issued a warning after several cases of children falling seriously ill after eating different types of snacks.

Authorities appealed for calm following reports claiming children had died after consuming items bought from spaza shops. These sites are also called tuck shops and are informal grocery stores.

The Gauteng Health Department confirmed the deaths of at least five children due to suspected foodborne sources.

In one incident, four boys aged 2, 3, 4, and 6 allegedly ate sweets and chips from a vendor in Westonaria. The youngest two died. In another case, two 6-year-olds died after consuming biscuits and juice from a local shop. Police have taken samples for processing to find the source.

A spate of poisoning cases investigated
Earlier this week, Bongiwe Mbinqo-Gigaba, chairperson of the Portfolio Committee on Basic Education, said she was concerned about an increase in foodborne illnesses of students who are thought to have bought snacks from vendors outside schools.

At Jan Kempdorp Primary School in the Northern Cape, a letter was sent to parents informing them of pupils who suffered illnesses after reportedly eating chips they bought in the morning on their way to school. Patients reported stomach cramps, numbness, and headaches and were taken to the hospital.

A student from Tshepisong in Roodepoort died recently after allegedly eating biscuits she bought from a local spaza shop. It was also reported that 90 children from Shoshanguve in Gauteng were ill after having “space cookies” purchased from a seller outside a school.

Mbinqo-Gigaba appealed to parents to buy any snacks for their children and to do so from reputable sources.

The City of Tshwane Health Department said it had received preliminary reports of suspected Foodborne illnesses at two primary schools in Winterveld—several pupils presented with gastrointestinal symptoms such as diarrhea, vomiting, and cramps. Initial findings suggest that children consumed snacks bought from street vendors. Investigations have implicated maize-based snacks and biscuits from an unknown source.

The South African Government encouraged the public to be vigilant when buying food to ensure expiry dates are visible, packaging is not damaged, and purchases are made from reputable retailers.

Consumers were advised not to buy products that lack details about ingredients, nutritional information, storage advice, expiry and production dates, and manufacturing information. People were also urged to be on the lookout for fake food items – such products may have spelling errors or logos may not be correct.

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