Police Publish Investigation Results of SW China Food Poisoning

10/14/2010 Source: People’s Daily

Police authorities in southwest China’s Sichuan Province have blamed last week’s mass food poisoning that killed a tourist and sickened dozens on poor management of a local hotel.

“Chefs at the Pearl Garden Hotel in Luding County mistook nitrite for salt while preparing breakfast on Oct. 8,” said Li Zhongming, an officer with the public security bureau in the Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture of Garze.

Dozens of tourists and hotel staff suffered nausea and vomiting after eating porridge, pickles and noodles, Li said at a press conference Thursday afternoon.

A 47-year-old woman from Guangzhou died and 42 others were hospitalized.

A hotel manager confirmed five packs of nitrite were bought in February and stored in the kitchen’s warehouse, Li said.

Nitrite is commonly used to prepare pickles, stewed meat and some other foods in Sichuan cuisine.

“The inventory record showed a chef took out a pack on August 1 to cook a particular dish,” he said.

The chef used some nitrite and put the rest under the kitchen table.

On Aug. 18, all the kitchen staff were replaced, said Li. “The new chefs mistook the nitrite as salt on Oct. 8 which caused the mass food poisoning.”

In subsequent lab tests, the provincial disease control and prevention center found 10.8 grams of nitrite in every kilogram of noodles, and 11.3 grams of nitrite in every kilogram of porridge.

Just 2 to 3 grams of nitrite could be fatal, while health authorities in China considered a maximum 20 mg of nitrite the safe limit in every kilogram of food.

The authorities have ordered the hotel to close pending a full investigation. A spokesman with the local health bureau said the people responsible would be penalized in line with the country’s food safety laws.

As of Thursday, all 42 victims had recovered and been discharged from hospital. Local authorities have promised to compensate them, and negotiations were underway.

Pearl Garden Hotel is near the Hailuogou (Conch Gully) National Glaciers Park, a major tourist attraction about 300 km from the provincial capital Chengdu.

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