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Food poisoning under spotlight after hundreds of children fall ill

The Gauteng Education Department has launched an investigation into alleged food poisoning after learners became ill at school.

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Gauteng Education MEC Panyaza Lesufi has launched an investigation into a case of alleged food poisoning after hundreds learners who consumed a cooked lunch at school, became ill and had to receive medical treatment.

The department has arranged for samples of the allegedly contaminated food to be sent to a laboratory for scientific testing to determine whether it had caused the learners to become sick.

Gauteng Education department spokesperson Steve Mabona said he had sanctioned a probe into allegations of food poisoning at MH Baloyi Secondary in Winterveld after learners became ill on Wednesday.

“Learners allegedly consumed food during break time on Tuesday and the school day ended without any learner complaining about a stomach bug,” Mabona said.

“On Wednesday several learners in a specific classroom complained about having a stomach bug and some said they were not able to sleep the previous night. About 203 learners who consumed that food had all experienced stomach pains and they were rushed to several health facilities to receive medical attention. Fortunately, all the learners were discharged in the evening,” Mabona said.

Lesufi visited the school on Thursday and engaged with school management and district officials regarding the circumstances surrounding the incident. 

Mabona said the MEC had also interacted with learners and apologised to them.

“What happened yesterday is just unfortunate. I met with the students and they explained what happened. I also met with the people who were cooking. The leadership of the school, the district and I have taken samples to laboratories and as such I am waiting for the outcome of those samples. Until then, we advised that the suspicious food must not be served, only fruits, porridge and other ready-made food must be served until we get the results which will assist us with a way forward,” Lesufi said.