File Photo: Egypt's President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi (Photo Courtesy of Egypt Presidency Spokesman on Facebook)
Egypt's President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi ordered on Thursday the urgent formation of a committee to investigate a school meal poisoning incident that led to the food poisoning of hundreds of students in the Upper Egyptian governorate of Sohag.
"The President is closely following the incident and is receiving a updated reports on the elementary school students' health conditions," a statement from the President's office read.
The statement did not include details on the nature of the committee or who would sit on it.
Egypt's health ministry announced on Tuesday that some 800 students from eight schools in Sohag had been hospitalised with suspected food poisoning after eating school meals.
According to a source in Sohag's branch of the education ministry, the meals -- which are disbursed through the ministry -- included cheese and halva.
Later on Tuesday, however, the Egyptian cabinet information center said that 3,353 students became ill after eating the small meals, affirming that all cases but 17 had left hospitals after being treated.
Samples from the meals were reserved for testing following the incident. Samples were also taken from the affected students to determine the cause of the food poisoning.
Egypt's state-run National School Feeding Programme (NSFP) covers 13.5 million students with a total budget of 957 million Egyptian pounds.
The World Food Programme has been supporting the NSFP since 1968, and currently contributes fortified meals to 636,000 children nationwide.
Egypt has been aiming to expand its school food programme, with El-Sisi stressing that expansion in the NSFP was a priority for the state.
The European Union is one of the major contributors to school food programmes in Egypt, along with the United States, Germany and private-sector donors.
This is not the first food poisoning incident to occur at government-run schools this month.
Earlier in March, around 200 students were diagnosed with food poisoning after eating cafeteria meals at two schools in the southern governorate of Minya.
Days later, 14 students in Upper Egypt's Assiut suffered food poisoning, prompting the health ministry to halt the distribution of school meals in the governorate until food safety tests could be carried out.