The “milk poisoning” in Sta. Catalina, Negros Oriental, hit 225 elementary pupils and some parents, Dr. Liland Estacion, Provincial Health Officer, said Sunday, May 22.
There were 63 who were hospitalized, while the others were treated as outpatients and in their homes, after they became ill after drinking “fresh” milk distributed by the Department of Education (DepEd), she said.
The DepEd, in a statement issued Saturday, said it is investigating a suspected food-borne illness involving elementary pupils in Sta. Catalina, due to alleged contaminated milk distributed in schools in the area under the School-Based Feeding Program (SBFP).
SBFP, as one of the department’s priority initiatives, aims to address hunger and encourage learners to enroll and contribute to the improvement of their nutritional status, as mandated by Republic Act No. 11037 or the Masustansyang Pagkain para sa Batang Pilipino Act, it said.
DepEd has coordinated with the involved local government unit, the National Dairy Authority, and concerned agencies for the analysis of milk samples and the investigation of the incident, the statement said.
Based on the field report, majority of the affected learners experienced mild illnesses, including dehydration and nausea. They were treated in nearby hospitals and were discharged later on, the DepEd added.
DepEd has facilitated the provision of immediate medical assistance to affected individuals and will continue to monitor their health status.
“DepEd, through the Bureau of Learner Support Services-School Health Division and concerned field offices, is committed to continue assisting the learners and their families. We will likewise look into possible actions against those responsible entities or individuals”, the statement said.
“The health and safety of our learners remain the utmost priority of the Department, and we will ensure that measures will be instituted to prevent occurrence of similar incidents,” it added.
Estacion said the Provincial Health Office with the Sta. Catalina municipal government conducted an epidemiological investigation to determine the cause of the incident.
They also took swab samples from the patients and sent them along with samples of the milk they drank to the Vicente Sotto Memorial Medical Center laboratory to determine what hit them, she said.
They are also waiting for the DepEd to inform them who the supplier of the milk was so they can investigate its production process, Estacion added.*