China’s hospitals and in particular, Chinese hospital food, do not necessarily have the highest of reputations. Now the whole scare factor of heading off to a Sino hospital has just raised that little bit more with the recent story that a poisoner is at large in a Harbin hospital restaurant.
The latest incident caused 203 illnesses and one death at Harbin’s Heilongjiang Provincial Hospital of Traditional Chinese Medicine. Both staff and patients were affected by the poisoning, confirmed to be a rat poison containing fluoroacetamide. The sole deceased victim, seventy-seven-year-old Du Qingrong, died after eating food from the hospital’s restaurant. BBC News reported on official reactions to this awful incident.
“The mass poisoning… was a criminal act involving the intentional use of dangerous substances,” the provincial government said on its website.
Police were seeking a person or persons who placed rat poison in a kettle of water that was then used to make the morning breakfast porridge, the statement continued.
Xinhua also reported at the end of March this year that 57 people were similarly poisoned by a breakfast at a Chinese restaurant.
The 57 victims felt nauseous and stomachache after eating breakfast in a restaurant in the Xixi Town of Yongkang City, Zhejiang Province. They were hospitalized immediately and a panel of experts was sent to the hospital at once.
Xinhua also reported that Zhejiang police have offered a 50,000-yuan reward for the capture of the person who deliberately placed rat poison in the breakfast served at the Xixi restaurant.
Shanghaiist wonders if the latest incident in Harbin is a copy-cat ploy, or just another example of poor food hygiene in China, particularly if we consider the recent allegations of contaminated Chinese wheat gluten ingredients combined into pet food sold to US pet owners.
The Food and Drug Administration has said the investigation into the pet deaths was focused on wheat gluten in the food. The gluten itself would not cause kidney failure, but it could have been contaminated, the FDA said.
Paul Henderson, chief executive of Menu Foods, confirmed Friday that the wheat gluten was purchased from China.
Bob Rosenberg, senior vice president of government affairs for the National Pest Management Association, said it would be unusual for the wheat to be tainted.
“It would make no sense to spray a crop itself with rodenticide,” Rosenberg said, adding that grain shippers typically put bait stations around the perimeter of their storage facilities.
We’re not fully convinced that a lack of attention to detail could have caused rat poisons to mixed in with food supplies, but we wouldn’t be too surprised if this was the actual case in these matters.
Really scary rat picture taken from The People’s Daily.