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School lunch milk food poisoning suspected as 930 central Japan pupils, staff fall ill

Toyama City Hall is seen in this file photo. (Mainichi/Kazuo Yanagisawa)

TOYAMA -- Some 930 pupils and staff at 18 municipal day centers, elementary schools and junior high schools in this central Japan city were absent or had to go home early due to apparent food poisoning symptoms including stomach pains and diarrhea, the Toyama Municipal Government announced June 17.

    All the cases are said to be mild, but some have reported fevers or vomiting consistent with food poisoning, and the city's public health center is investigating the cause.

    In all, about 830 people across nine of the city's elementary schools and four of its junior high schools, as well as some 100 people at five day care facilities, were affected. According to the city government, the 13 schools implicated all had the same batch of milk during school lunch on June 16.

    The milk was delivered by a local firm on that morning, and had been kept refrigerated until before mealtime. At the day care centers on June 16, milk was twice handed out as part of snack time.

    An individual connected to the case reported that while the same company that distributed the milk to the 13 affected schools also supplies other schools with the product, as of June 17 no one from the other institutions had apparently complained of symptoms.

    The public health center is inspecting the test samples it keeps of June 16 batches conveyed for the school lunches and the day care facilities' snack times. In the meantime, the schools and day care centers with absences have canceled the supply of the milk until June 18 and 19, respectively.

    Additionally, on June 17, 18 children were absent and 14 left early at an elementary school affiliated with the University of Toyama after presenting symptoms similar to food poisoning, according to school officials. Milk had been provided with school lunches on June 16, but was reportedly removed from the June 17 meals.

    In 1998, the city of Toyama saw a case of mass food poisoning in school lunches caused by milk. In all, 961 people who drank milk kept in a tank with damage to its refrigeration equipment suffered adverse health effects.

    (Japanese original by Ikuko Aoyama and Kenta Sunaoshi, Toyama Bureau)

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