Tomas Earnshaw Food Poisoning

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After the alleged milk poisoning, here comes another with the same impact and proportions. The Tomas EarnshawFood Poisoning issue almost wiped-out the competition for the most reported health issue for the month of July.

News reports about some 400 students of a public elementary school, the Tomas Earnshaw Elementary School, in Manila getting hospitalized after eating food products sold in the school canteen hogged the healdlines on July 1. Most of the victims were taken to Philippine General Hospital, Ospital ng Maynila, and Lourdes Hospital. The news said that the afflicted children bought tuna and egg sandwiches and macaroni soup from the canteen. The food reportedly caused the children to vomit, and later, complain of stomach pain. (Today, July 1)

The same news reported that parents were complaining that the school principal prohibits students from bringing their own pack lunch or snack, thus forcing them to buy food from the canteen. Alarmed local city officials decided to summon school officials to explain why they do not allow the students to bring their own food and disclose the identity of the owner of the canteen. DepEd officials said the charges of negligence might be filed against the school principal if she is found liable for the said instructions. Samples of the food served by the canteen that day were subjected to laboratory tests. (Today, July 1)

A day after it hit the news, the number of cases ballooned to 470. The Manila Health Department (MHD) closed the school canteen until after health investigators found the real cause of the poisoning characterized by abdominal pains, diarrhea, fever, and nausea. (Daily Tribune, July 2)

Initial reports indicated that improperly treated water might have been the culprit of the poisoning. DepEd said that tests showed a lack of chlorine, which is necessary to make water potable. DepEd officials said that there were students who fell ill but did not eat the sandwich and only consumed pineapple juice prepared in the canteen. The officials, however, said that nothing is conclusive yet until the results of investigations conducted by health experts come out. (Philippine Star, July 2)

Just like the Minalin incident, a mult-agency investigation on the Earnshaw case was conducted. Apart from the MHD, the departments of health and education are also doing their own probes. The National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) took food samples for analysis, while the DOH collected rectal swabs of students for lab test. (Today, July 2)

On July 3, news on DOH declaring salmonella infection as cause of the outbreak of food poisoning among hundreds of Tomas Earnshaw students came out. It was also stated in the same news reports that the total number of affected children reached 684. (PDI, July 3)

As the investigation went on, Manila Mayor Lito Atienza threatened to close down all city school canteens not meeting the required health standards. He directed the Manila Division of City Schools (MDSC) to cooperate with MHD in the inspection of school facilities to ensure safety of students. (Manila Times. July 4)

Barely a week after, the MDSC dismissed the principal and two officials of the Tomas Earnshaw Elementary School from the service following the widespread food poisoning that occurred in the said school. MDSC officials said that there was negligence on the part of the two supervisors, while the principal has overall responsibility. Still in the same news item, the DOH reported that the tested samples taken from the school’s water reservoir and the leftover juice consumed by the students both yielded negative results for contaminants. (PDI, July 4)

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