Authorities in the southern Vietnamese province of Hau Giang have concluded that a bacterial infection that occurred during the mixture of a chocolate drink resulted in the food poisoning of over 500 elementary students in late October.
The result of an investigation was announced by the provincial People’s Committee during a meeting on Monday afternoon.
According to reports, as part of a campaign to encourage sport and physical exercise by local students, the M.C Advertising Service Company offered a free chocolate milk to 540 pupils of Lai Hieu Elementary School, then a further 220 at Nguyen Hien Elementary School, which was distributed at approximately 7:20 am on the morning of October 27.
About an hour after drinking the flavoured milk, the students began showing symptoms of nausea.
Over 500 children from both schools were admitted to the local medical center.
About 39 suffered more severe symptoms and were given infusion as well as special medications.
All of the students were able to return home by the evening.
“Examinations revealed that the samples of chocolate milk as well as the patients’ vomit both contained Staphylococcus Aureus,” said Nguyen Thanh Tung, director of the Hau Giang Department of Health.
Staphylococcus Aureus, also known as golden staph, is a type of bacteria frequently found in the nose, along the respiratory tract, and on the skin in humans. It is a common cause of skin infections including abscesses, respiratory infections, and food poisoning.
The bacterial infection is said to have been triggered during the mixture of the drink provided by the M.C Advertising Service Company, Tung added.
According to Don Van Thanh, vice-chairman of the provincial administration, the infection was caused by human error.
The free drink program has been implemented at 38 other schools in the province without any issue, Thanh noted.
M.C Company will be asked to pay an administrative penalty and will be suspended from implementing the program until the matter is resolved.