Health Department initiates urgent probe into ‘toxic’ noodles
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CAPE TOWN - The National Health Department said it has initiated an urgent investigation into possible food poisoning in the Mpumalanga, Gauteng and Eastern Cape provinces following the death of children who allegedly consumed toxic noodles.
The department said it held a meeting on Thursday with officials from the Environment Health Practitioners from the affected provinces and municipalities to receive a preliminary investigation report into the death of the children to obtain more information which includes getting the name of the noodles, supplier, manufacturer and stores where it was purchased.
It said items related to the suspected food products have been collected by a team of environmental health experts and have since been sent for testing.
While awaiting the results of the testing and forensic investigations, it will not be 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, while at the same time 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 process to prevent possibility of more loss of lives.
“Although the process which must be followed to recall any affected product requires that the nature, causes, extent and degree of the risk should be established.
“The investigation will also establish if the local 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 died of possible food poisoning.
“The department will keep the affected families and public fully informed of any developments around the investigation,” the department said.
It has also urged members of the public to report any suspicious food products to local authorities (Environmental Health Practitioners/Municipal Health Services) so the necessary investigations can be done and to stop the spread of these cases at the source - manufacturers/importers or distributors.
“Members of the public are further encouraged to practise good hygiene when handling any food, including checking the labelling for best before or related dates and condition of the foodstuffs and the packaging.
“The department is also working closely with other national stakeholders involved in food production and hygiene such as 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,” the Health Department said.
It has also confirmed that environmental health practitioners at local level are collaborating with police.
IOL previously reported that 10 days after three children from Gqerberha, including a 4-month-old baby died after allegedly eating two-minute noodles, police are waiting for the toxicology reports to shed light on their deaths.
There have also been reports about two siblings, aged nine and 13, who died after eating noodles for breakfast in Mpumalanga.