Dr. Edgardo Sandig, South Cotabato health officer, said teachers of the Koronadal Central Elementary School-I (KCES-I) here rushed the victims to the South Cotabato Provincial Hospital early Wednesday afternoon after suffering from symptoms of apparent food poisoning.
“They suffered severe stomach and headaches, incessant vomiting and dizziness after eating a Chinese branded sugar spicy chocolate,” he said.
Hospital records showed that 31 pupils were rushed for treatment but most of them were later released after showing signs of recovery.
As of this morning, only pupil Arjay Magdugo remained at the hospital for further observation after he suffered difficulty in breathing.
Myla Rose Mabalot, class adviser of Grade 5’s fifth section, said most of her pupils suddenly complained of various illnesses after eating chocolates sold by one of their classmates.
“I initially brought them to the school’s clinic but I was advised to bring them to the hospital since they don’t know what caused the poisoning,” she said.
Mabalot said she later found out that the victims had earlier eaten the sugar spicy chocolate bought by a student from Novo department store, a budget store selling mostly cheap imported goods from China.
The student-vendor admitted that she went to the store during their lunch break to buy a pencil but she was lured to buy the candy after noticing that its price had been reduced to P25 per pack from the original P55.
She then sold them to her classmates, other pupils of Grade 5’s section seven and to one grade one pupil.
‘“It tasted awful. It’s like cellophane,” she candidly told reporters.
Jose Baroquillo, provincial sanitary inspector, said they immediately went to the store to investigate but the owners already pulled out the alleged “poison-laden” product from their shelves.
“We inquired from the owners but they were not cooperative so we just took note of the other products they were selling there,” he said.
While they were inside the store, Baroquillo said a customer came in and returned exactly the same product that downed the pupils of KCES-I, complaining it didn’t taste like chocolate.
He said they would use the returned product, which they already sent to the Bureau of Food and Drugs for laboratory testing, as evidence against the store owners and possibly its Manila-based distributor.
“So far, we found out that some of the products they were selling don’t have any permit from BFAD and therefore should not be sold to consumers,” he said.
Baroquillo said they would conduct another round of inspection of several stores in the city which sell imported products for the possible presence of food products that have no permits from BFAD for commercial selling. (Allen V. Estabillo/MindaNews)