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Food poison case kids 'forced to eat bad food'

By Xu Chi (Shanghai Daily)

08:53, April 23, 2012

HUNDREDS of children who suffered food poisoning after having lunch at a school in southwest China's Yunnan Province claim teachers made them eat the "smelly, bitter" food or face a 10 yuan (US$1.58) fine.

"We ate rice and peas, but the peas were black, smelled bad and had a bitter taste," one pupil told China Central Television news reporters at the weekend.

"It was hard to swallow the peas, but teachers said we had to eat them all or else each pay a 10 yuan fine," another added.

After lunch at the Dingla Primary School last Thursday, 368 of the 665 pupils were taken to hospital with symptoms of food poisoning, including feeling sick, stomachache and high fever, CCTV reported.

The pupils are among around 350,000 schoolchildren in Yunnan who receive a 3 yuan daily subsidy from the central government to help provide a nutritious lunch.

However, the school allegedly paid the subsidy to an unlicensed canteen to make lunch, said the news report.

According to an investigation reported by Yunnan government, packages of rice used in the canteen carried no information - including the production date.

And vegetables, bottles of oil and other ingredients were found piled on the floor, instead of being stored in fridges or cupboards, inspectors found.

Neither the school nor canteen had food safety qualifications or food service permits, required to be issued by local food and drug administration, the report found.

After the incident, Yunnan education authorities told schools in the province to end illegal deals with private canteens.

A school head teacher has been sacked and other school officials held responsible. The investigation is ongoing.

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