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Probe into children's 'chicken' deaths

Western Cape
Cape Town - The City of Cape Town's Environmental Health Department is investigating the death of two children and hospitalisation of seven other people after they apparently contracted food poisoning after eating chicken.

Mayoral committee member for safety, security and social services JP Smith said the investigation would cover site visits to the home of the victims, the premises of the vendor where the food was purchased before preparation and the farm where the vendor bought the live chicken.

Anele Ngqiba, 6, and Asemahle Ngqiba, 4, died after eating a cooked chicken, apparently bought from a neighbour in Samora Machel in Philippi. Three adults, including Asemahle’s grandfather, Mxolisi Mhaga, and three cousins became ill.

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Grieving and traumatised Nophelo Sofie Ngqiba, centre, who has lost a child and a grandchild to suspected food poisoning, is comforted by a relative Noncedo Fukuse. Picture: Phando Jikelo/ANA Pictures

On Sunday, Asemahle and Mhaga ate from a pot in which the chicken, sold live and usually slaughtered and plucked on the day, had been cooked. A relative, Nonceba Fukuse, said a few hours after eating the food, about 8pm, the 4-year-old suffered seizures. The following day , the family again ate leftovers from the same pot. When more family members fell ill, they were rushed to hospital, where Anele, 6, died.

Smith said environmental health practitioners had already secured samples of the food that the victims consumed and these had been sent to laboratories for testing.

They have also secured samples from the vendor for testing by the city’s bacteriological laboratory.

“We do not want to speculate on the possible cause until laboratory tests have been completed and the autopsy results are available.

“However, it does appear that the incident is isolated to one household as no further information or evidence has been presented to suggest that anyone else has been affected.”

Provincial health spokesperson Darren Francis said there were still three children at Red Cross War Memorial Children’s Hospital. They were in a stable condition.

“One of the two children who were admitted to Red Cross was moved to a normal ward and the remaining child is still in ICU in a stable condition. One female patient has been discharged from Mitchells Plain Hospital.

“The Western Cape health forensic pathology service is looking into the official cause of death, and has requested a toxicology report, which will confirm the official cause of death. Once confirmed these results will be released to SAPS, to complete the investigation.”

Groote Schuur Hospital spokesperson Alaric Jacobs said Mxolisi Mhaga was still in a critical condition. 

[email protected]

Cape Argus

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