Rash of food poisoning cases hits China schools

AP News
Posted: Sep 08, 2011 1:28 AM

Nearly 300 Chinese primary and middle school students have been sickened by unsafe food or water provided by their schools in five separate incidents over the past week, state media said Thursday.

The rash of food poisoning cases coincides with the start of the new school year.

The latest case occurred Wednesday in Shandong province, affecting 86 primary school students who became ill after eating lunch, the official Xinhua News Agency said. Ten remained under observation in hospitals Thursday, it said, and authorities were testing the school's food for problems.

Four other cases affecting 205 kids were reported in Hebei and Jiangxi provinces in the past week, Xinhua said.

China's food safety record has been battered by the rampant use of illegal or substandard additives by unscrupulous food producers. Milk powder laced with the industrial chemical melamine killed at least six children and sickened 300,000 in 2008. Producers added the nitrogen-rich melamine powder so their milk would seem higher in protein.

But accidental contamination is also a problem, caused by low hygiene standards, particularly in rural areas, and weak quality control by regulators.