Food poisoning of 45 kids in Cotabato town traced to alum powder | Inquirer News

Food poisoning of 45 kids in Cotabato town traced to alum powder

An Italian priest who survived threats in the country has sent a message of hope during the Lenten break to church workers red-tagged and vilified for their works with the poor.

KIDAPAWAN CITY, COTABATO — A vendor in Mlang town, Cotabato province mistook alum powder or “tawas” for refined sugar. Hence, it was laced on banana fritters or “maruya,” downing at least 45 pupils on Monday.

Dr. Glecerio Sotea, Mlang municipal health officer, said they found out about the alum power as the cause of the food poisoning upon inspecting the vendor’s store and cooking area.


The school children of Palma-Perez Elementary School were rushed to the rural health center in Barangay Poblacion, more than 14 kilometers away, at mid-morning on Monday when they showed signs of food poisoning such as headache, body weakness, and vomiting.


School principal Elna Jontongco said the children, who are from Grades 1 to 6 and aged 7 to 12, had banana fritters during the morning break.

As of Monday afternoon, Sotea said 15 children were admitted to the Mlang District Hospital as they still experienced body weakness and headaches, but they could be discharged by Wednesday.

“They are now safe and recovering,” Sotea said of the children’s condition.

Jontongco said that, based on their investigation, the children only ate “maruya” during the break. Hence, they zeroed in on the food as the cause of their illness.

The children, according to Jontongco, recalled the unusually bitter taste of the supposedly sugar-laced snack food.

The unnamed vendor, when told what happened to the children, also found something unusual in the white crystalline powder she mistook as sugar.


Sotea said the vendor told them she went to a grocery store in nearby Barangay Bagontapay for sugar but grabbed a pack of alum powder instead.

“Perhaps she was in a hurry that she mistakenly took an alum substance rather than the white sugar beside it,” Sotea added, citing a CCTV recording.

“It was purely unintentional. She is a parent who is also concerned about our learners’ welfare,” said Jontongco, adding that the vendor has been a trusted food preparer for school activities, having been trained in good food handling practices by the municipal health office.

“I am very sorry for the incident. We will make sure that this will never happen in the future,” Jontongco said.

In 2019, at least 17 pupils of the same school attending a summer camp were hospitalized after they ate for dinner packed food served during breakfast.


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TAGS: Children, Cotabato, poisoning

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