46 students take ill after breakfast at Palike school

46 students take ill after breakfast at Palike school

Coming to school on an empty stomach proved dangerous for 46 students of BBMP Girls’ High School, Mathikere, on Thursday morning as they took ill after having the classroom breakfast supplied by Iskcon.

Tense moments: Students recuperate at the KC General Hospital in Malleswaram on Thursday. DH PhotoThe girls — students of Class VIII and X  — ate rice and ‘majjige huli’ (buttermilk curry) around 9.15 am, shortly after they turned up for special classes. Although many more girls attended school, the “hot, nutritious, and freshly cooked” food was served only to those who could not have breakfast at home.

Many of them are from Abbigere and Singapura, localities as far as 15 km from the school, the head master, H M Muralidhar said. 

The girls first vomited and felt giddy before experiencing exhaustion. Then, most of them collapsed, panicking their teachers who called the parents before rushing them to the K C General Hospital around 12.30 pm.

Teachers say not all students who had the breakfast complained of food poisoning right away. The panic button was pressed first by students of Class VIII as their condition worsened around 10 am. The school authorities, however, thought the matter was not serious. They acted only when students of Class X showed similar symptoms two hours later.

Upon reaching the hospital around 12.45 pm, the students were given antiemetics (drugs for vomiting and nausea) and antacids.

But the condition of 29 students was more serious and they had to be administered IV fluids, Dr R L Chandra Prabha, Medical Superintendent, K C General Hospital, said. The rest were treated as outpatients and discharged after a while.

According to Dr Lakshmipathi S R, Senior Specialist, Paediatrics, all students had “gastric irritability,” complaining of pain in the abdomen. Dr Mallikarjunaiah, another paediatrician at the hospital, said the students had vomiting sensation.

Barring three, all the students were discharged after a few hours. The condition of three girls — Shobha, Roopa, and Nethravathi — is said to be stable, but they will be kept under observation for a day.

Roopa, a student of Class X, already has an infection in her upper lip. Hence, when she ate the food, her condition deteriorated fast. 

Shobha, another Class X student, said she felt very weak. Nethravathi, a Class VIII student, was discharged. But had to be admitted again when her condition worsened at 6 pm. 

Causes for the mayhem?

Teachers say the utensils used for storing the food were probably not cleaned properly. Students are served food in plates they bring from home.

But the cookware brought by Iskcon might not have been maintained properly. 

Doctors say the contamination might have happened because of either the food or water.
But, Dr Mallikarjunaiah thinks food, rather than water, might have been contaminated. The chances of it happening during handling are less.

“Had the food been contaminated while handling, not so many students would have been affected,” he said. 

The BBMP Chief Medical Officer, Dr K E Manjula, said the food samples had been sent to the laboratory for chemical analysis.

Iskcon Clarifies

The Akshaya Patra Foundation has issued a clarification stating that the food has been supplied from the HK Hill Kitchen and the same food has been supplied to about 85,000 children on Thursday and none of the other children had reported any symptoms.

They stated that the food samples have been collected from the school and sent to a third party National Accreditation Board for Testing and Calibration Laboratories .

“The Akshaya Patra Foundation has been implementing the mid-day meal programme for the past 11 years without any untoward incident, and maintains very high quality standards in all its kitchens. The HK Hill is ISO 22000:2005 certified and adheres to all the conditions thereunder.

We have traced the batch of the food that was supplied to this school; the same batch has been supplied to over 20 schools on the same route. None of the other schools have complained or reported any problems with respect to the food supplied today including the immediately preceding school (Government Higher Primary School, Gokula) and the immediately succeeding school (M S Ramaiah High School). Hence it appears that the problem is local; however, we are further investigating the same,” ISKCON PRO Bhara- tha­rashabha Das stated.

Das also said that they were considering the possibility of water contamination at the school or the food being served by some, who had not washed their hands, before serving. “We wash the vessels ourselves and they are sterilised, so there can be no question of the vessel being contaminated either, but sometimes if the teacher is not present, then someone else might serve and not observe cleanliness,” Das explained.

Meanwhile, the Karnataka State Commission for Protection of Child Rights has taken suo motu cognisance and registered a complaint. 

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