Primary school students waiting for the beginning of the first day of school (Photo: Mai Shaheen)
Egypt's health ministry said in a statement Wednesday evening that there were no cases of food poisoning among tens of elementary school students at Saeed El-Bashtili's primary school in Al-Omda village of Suez who were admitted to hospital after complaining of stomach aches following the consumption of chocolate milk at school.
The statement said that lab tests on lunch-time chocolate milk suspected of upsetting the children's stomachs returned negative.
The students admitted to hospital after receiving milk at school "were not poisoned", a ministry source at the ministry of health, who asked to remain anonymous, told Ahram Online.
The source added that he believed that the incident might have been a case of "collective scare" among the students.
The health ministry's statement put the number of students admitted to hospital at 65.
However, Ahram Arabic news website reporter in Suez, Amr Gheneima, told Ahram Online that the number of children who were admitted to hospitals was 130.
He said hospital officials issued a report saying that the students suffered an intestinal pain because the milk had not been stored properly. Gheneima added that out of the 130, 68 are still in hospital, including 14 under observation, while the rest were discharged.
Earlier in the day, Egypt's general-prosecutor office said it is investigating the issue after it learned that 178 students at Saeed El-Bashtili's Primary School suffered diarrhea and vomitting following consumption of milk at school.
Deputy minister of education in Suez, Abdel-Hafez Wahid, ordered a stop on the distribution of dairy in all schools across the governorate immediately after the outbreak of the incident.
Egyptian public schools nationwide, which have long been in deteriorating condition, witnessed several deadly incidents come to the fore in recent days.
On Tuesday, one student was killed and another injured when they were hit by a vehicle delivering food supplies to a primary school in Atfieh, Giza.
A seven-year-old student was killed on Sunday during recess in a school in the town of Negila in Marsa Matrouh governorate when the school's gate fell on him.
Earlier in October, a student in third primary class in a school in Cairo's Mataria district was killed when the window glass of his classroom fell and broke through his neck.
Several schools principals and education officials have been referred to questioning regarding these incidents.
Egypt has long suffered from a deteriorating education system, which has been blamed primarily on decades of insufficient investment by the government in infra-structure.