Health department claims there is no conclusive evidence to suggest that noodles caused children’s deaths
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Johannesburg - At this stage, it’s mere “speculation” that two siblings died from eating poisoned noodles, Mpumalanga police say.
Last week, nine-year-old Thato and 13-year-old Keamogetswe Makofane were declared dead after being taken to a clinic. They had allegedly eaten two-minute noodles before school.
Police spokesperson Constable Busisiwe Mthetewa said that in the absence of a post-mortem report, there was no evidence to suggest the noodles caused their deaths.
“All we know at this stage, and according to the mom, is that was the first thing they ate that morning. We are still waiting for the results of the post-mortem. So, for now, we can’t confirm and it’s just speculation,” she said.
Mthethwa said police could not immediately link the children’s deaths to the recent case of three Eastern Cape children who died shortly after eating noodles.
The Department of Health has initiated an urgent investigation into possible food poisoning in Mpumalanga, the Eastern Cape and Gauteng.
Spokesperson Foster Mohale said the department met the environmental health practitioners from the three affected provinces and municipalities on Thursday in order to receive preliminary investigation reports into the children`s deaths.
More specifically, the department wanted more information, including the food brand name, supplier or manufacturer and the stores where the food was purchased.
“A team of environmental health experts have collected all other items related to the suspected food products, and sent them to the laboratory for testing.
“The department will await the laboratory testing results and forensic investigations before making a conclusive statement.
“This crucial information will enable the health officials to establish a possible link between the noodles alleged to have been consumed in the provinces and the deaths, in order to immediately notify the suppliers or manufacturers.”
Mohale said it would also allow the department to make a decision on the possible recall of all suspected food products from the shelves, for large-scale laboratory testing as part of the broader investigation to prevent the possibility of more deaths.
The investigation will further establish if the health facilities within the municipal areas had treated other patients for possible food poisoning and related symptoms, and if mortuaries had received human remains of people who had died of possible food poisoning.
The department would keep the affected families and public fully informed of any developments around the investigation.
“The public is encouraged to report any suspicious food products to the local authorities (environmental health practitioners/municipal health services), so that the necessary and accurate investigations can be carried out to stop the spread of these cases at source (manufacturers/importers and distributors),” he said.
Members of the public are also further encouraged to practise good hygiene when handling food, including checking the labelling for best before or related dates and condition of the foodstuffs and the packaging.
He said the department was working closely with other national stakeholders involved in food production and hygiene, among them the National Consumer Commission, Department of Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development.
“This is because food hygiene issues are a joint function for the Department of Health, Department of Trade Industry and Competition and its entities and the Department responsible for Agriculture. At local level, the environmental health practitioners are collaborating with the South African Police Service,” Foster said.
The department extended its condolences to the parents and families of the children.