Mass-poisoning fears halt school snacks

PUBLISHED : Monday, 21 July, 2003, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 21 July, 2003, 12:00am

Snacks will no longer be provided to primary and secondary school students in Beijing in an effort to cut the number of mass poisoning cases in the capital, the education commission has announced.

In recent years, the municipal government has handed out milk, bread, yoghurt and other snacks during breaks to improve children's diets.

But following a spate of mass poisonings in recent weeks, education officials said they had decided to cancel the service to reduce the risk.

The health bureau in Beijing said there were at least 23 incidents of mass poisoning in the capital from June 14 to July 9, affecting 457 people. Three of the incidents were in schools.

Hu Xiaoqi, a nutritionist from the Chinese Centre for Disease Control and Prevention said many pupils relied on the snacks as they had no time to eat a proper breakfast in the morning before leaving home.

'If schools abolish these snacks we must warn parents to ensure that their children get a nutritional breakfast instead,' he said.

Reports of mass poisonings are common. Some are accidents, but some are intentional. In one case this year, more than 2,500 primary schoolchildren from Haicheng city in Liaoning province were poisoned by soya milk provided by their schools.

At least three children died.

Police believe that it was an accident.

In another case late last year in Guangdong, a man who ran a kindergarten broke into a rival school and put rat poison in the salt pot. Seventy children and two teachers fell ill, but all survived.