Poison

Three Peruvian children between the ages of six and ten died earlier this month and 50 more became seriously ill after eating food donated by a school nutrition program that was contaminated with high levels of a toxic pesticide.

The rice and fish were donated by the National Food Assistance Programme, which services the remote impoverished area 310 miles north of the capital Lima with free school lunches. The meal was likely contaminated accidentally during preparation, probably with rat poison, according to officials.

Outraged and grieving parents reported their children turning purple, mirroring a similar poisoning that occurred in a Peruvian village near Cusco in 1999, where 24 children died after eating pesticide-contaminated food.

In the U.S., Listeria-tainted cantaloupes have killed nearly a dozen and sickened more than 55 in four states including New Mexico, Colorado, Kansas and Oklahoma, with more deaths and illnesses likely to follow according to the Centers for Disease Control. The outbreak is linked to cantaloupe melons sold by Jensen Farms of Holly, Colorado and distributed to 17 states. Listeria is a food-borne pathogen that can cause high fever, muscle aches, vomiting, diarrhea and death, with symptoms starting as many as 70 days after exposure.

Serious illness and possibly even more food-related deaths were averted as the USDA issued a recall on 40,000 pounds of ground beef headed for Georgia school lunches earlier this month, citing possible e coli contamination as the cause. Six Georgia school districts were scheduled to receive the meat distributed by Amarillo, Texas-based Palo Duro Meat, but the USDA reports that it is unaware of any of the beef being served to students.

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Image: Mykl Roventine