Four Tsakane children, aged between two and nine, are in stable condition and recovering after they were admitted for a suspected food poisoning incident.
However, tragically, in the same incident, as confirmed by the Gauteng Department of Education on Tuesday, a fifth child, a Grade 1 girl from Mandlethu Primary School, started vomiting in class and was declared dead upon the arrival of paramedics.
Children consumed biscuits from spaza shop
The department said that the girl’s parents confirmed that she had consumed biscuits, which were bought from a local spaza shop.
“We are deeply saddened by this unfortunate incident. We plead with parents to be vigilant concerning the edible goods that their children consume,” said Gauteng Education MEC Matome Chiloane on Tuesday.
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“We call upon law enforcement agencies and municipalities to be more stringent on compliance matters related to spaza shop products. Indeed, we wish to extend our sincerest condolences to the family and the school community at large.”
On Wednesday, the Gauteng Department of Health (GDoH) confirmed that the other four children who ate the biscuits were recovering well in Pholosong Regional Hospital in Tsakane after they were admitted on Tuesday afternoon.
“Post-ingestion of suspicious biscuits bought from a local spaza shop, two children reported experiencing diarrhoea, while the other two were asymptomatic, awake, and playful. One child started vomiting in class and later on, demised,” the GDoH said.
Food samples taken
The health department further confirmed that, as a precautionary measure, food samples, including the biscuits, have been taken from the store and will be examined in a lab to see whether contaminants or other factors may have played a role in this incident.
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Blood and urine samples have also been taken to the laboratory from the hospitalised children.
In an effort to dispel public fears about suspected food poisoning, the provincial and district outbreak response teams have also been on the ground, performing investigations, public health campaigns, and food safety blitzes at the spaza shops in Tsakane.
“This is part of ongoing efforts to empower communities on food safety tips such as food handling, preparation, storage, the importance of checking food expiry labels, and hand washing before handling food,” the department said.
The department extended condolences to the families that have lost their loved ones and a speedy recovery to those that are currently admitted.
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Suspected food poisoning incidents
The tragic death of the girl comes just a few days after more than 320 pupils from Osborn Senior Secondary School in KwaBhaca, in the Eastern Cape, received medical attention after they started vomiting and had diarrhoea last week.
In 2023, several cases of suspected food poisoning were reported across the country.
According to the GDoH, since the first food poisoning incident reported in October 2023, it has recorded cumulatively 861 foodborne incidences, which have resulted in 11 deaths.
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“The department continues to urge people to immediately visit their nearest health facilities for treatment when they present with symptoms such as vomiting, sudden chest pains, body ache or weakness, fever, or foam in the mouth,” the department said.