GENERAL SANTOS, Philippines – At least 45 school children fell ill and were rushed to a hospital and clinics after eating banana fritters during their morning class recess in Mlang town, Cotabato province on Monday, May 22. The fritters, bought from a vendor, turned out to have been mistakenly laced with “tawas” (alum powder).
Officials said the children from the Palma-Perez Elementary School experienced symptoms such as headaches, vomiting, and weakness.
Of the children rushed to nearby clinics and a hospital, 15 remained under observation by doctors until Wednesday, May 24.
Elna Jontongco, the school’s principal, said the affected grade schoolers had bought banana fritters from a vendor during their class recess.
During their investigation, Dr. Glecerio Sotea, the health officer of Mlang town, told local broadcaster Bombo Radyo Koronadal that they discovered the banana fritters consumed by the children were laced with alum.
Sotea said the vendor cooperated with investigators, leading them to her kitchen and the store where she bought alum powder, mistaking it for sugar.
CCTV footage showed that the vendor grabbed a pack of alum instead of sugar.
Several children said the fritters they consumed had an unusually bitter taste and lacked the expected sweetness.
Jontongco said the vendor has been a regular in the school area, selling snacks to the students.
She also said the vendor is trusted in food preparation during school events and has received food handling training from the local government.
Jontongco said she was convinced that the contamination of the fritters with alum was unintentional.
In 2019, a similar incident occurred, where approximately 17 students from the same school were hospitalized due to food poisoning. They had consumed food packs meant for breakfast during dinner.
The incident prompted school authorities to review their policies and protocols for students accessing food.
“We are committed to ensuring that this incident does not happen again,” she said. – Rappler.com
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