Egypt's education minister refutes claims of food poisoning among pupils after test results

Ahram Online , Tuesday 23 Nov 2021

Claims about mass food poisoning among pupils in the three Egyptian governorates of Assiut, Qena, and Kafr El-Sheikh were all found to be false according to the health ministry’s central laboratories, said Education Minister Tarek Shawki on Tuesday.

Beni Suef
File Photo: School meals in Beni Suef governorate, Upper Egypt. Al-Ahram

Assiut and Qena’s governors decided to temporarily suspend the distribution of school meals on Monday and Tuesday until it is made sure that they are safe. Dozens of pupils were hospitalised on Monday for feeling sick after consuming the government-provided school meals.

A statement by Qena governorate said on Tuesday that 50 pupils were admitted to the hospital and that 30 students were shortly discharged from the hospital, while the remaining 20 were in a “stable” condition.

In Assiut, around 30 pupils were transferred to the hospital.

Shawki stated in TV statements on Tuesday night that according to the test results of the collected samples “there is no evidence of food poisoning,” confirming that the school meals are safe to consume.

The minister reassured parents of the high quality of school meals and that they are completely safe.

In Kafr El-Sheikh, authorities have been dealing with claims of food poisoning for 107 students that occurred last Thursday, Governor Gamal Nour El-Din told the media on Tuesday, noting that samples of the juice they drank were found to be negative for food poisoning pathogens.

The education minister stressed that such food poisoning claims have been repeated over the past three years and have been refuted every time without exception after testing negative.

"Students sometimes claim or mistakenly feel they are sick when a colleague says they are suffering from a stomach-ache," Shawki said.

"Moreover, sometimes, teachers admit students to the hospital to absolve themselves from responsibility," Shawki added.

Shawi also charged that there are organised acts to ruin the country’s projects and discredit the state, urging the media to not use the term “food poisoning” without confirmation from the health ministry.

“The state is concerned with the safety of students and all the regulatory and security agencies are working to realise that,” the minister said.

Shawki added that the Public Prosecution’s Office is still investigating the case. "This confirms the seriousness of the state in dealing with the issue, and until the investigation is concluded, the distribution of meals will be suspended for 48 hours in the governorates," the minister maintained.

Egypt has recently been improving the nutritional value of school meals, which, according to Shawki, covers nearly 12 million students nationwide.

In August, Shawki said that the physical check-ups of 25 million students under the presidential initiative ‘100 Million Healthy Lives’ have shown that 3.4 million students suffer from obesity, 8.2 million suffer from anemia, and 1.3 million suffer from dwarfism.

His remarks came during the inauguration ceremony of Silo Foods, a mega food industries complex in Menoufiya which currently provides school meals for millions of students.

In the same event, President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi said that school meals cost EGP 7.7 billion yearly, promising that they will be nutritionally enhanced and rigorously monitored to provide safe food for our children.

On Tuesday, Shawki revealed that Silo Foods distributes 12 million meals daily to students in 27 governorates.

School meals were previously standardised nationwide, however, they are now prepared and served based on the health needs of each governorate, the minister noted.

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