A day after 40 passengers travelling on the Tejas Express fell ill from suspected food poisoning and were hospitalised, the railway authorities on Monday claimed the quality of food served on the train was satisfactory and that two children who vomited inside the air-conditioned coach triggered “uneasiness” among the other passengers, who started throwing up.
These are the findings of a committee consisting of three senior railway officials from the Central Railway (CR) and the Indian Railway Catering and Tourism Corporation (IRCTC). Forty of the 294 passengers, travelling to the city from Karmali in Goa on Sunday, were rushed to the Life Care hospital in Chiplun after the train was stopped there. Twenty-four of them had to be admitted to the hospital. But on Monday morning, all of them were discharged and transport arranged to send them to Mumbai, said railway officials.
According to senior railway officials, the committee spoke to passengers, the AC mechanic, the train conductor and ticket examiners to find out the reason for the passengers throwing up as the initial suspicion was on the food served on the train. Food on Tejas not reason for passengers taking ill: Railways
It emerged that two groups of tourists were travelling in the affected coach, one from Himachal Pradesh and the other from Kolkata. Two children travelling with the group from Himachal Pradesh first vomited in the coach. The smell and sight caused uneasiness among the other passengers and then two more children threw up. Then two more children vomited, triggering a “vomiting spree” in the compartment, railway officials said.
The IRCTC has served a showcause notice to catering contractor J K Ghosh. The area officer of the IRCTC at Madgaon and the onboard manager too were placed under suspension. The inquiry on them is still under way. The caterer has been supplying food in the premium train for three months.
“A committee comprising the senior divisional commercial manager of the CR, additional chief medical superintendent, Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Terminus (CSMT) and additional general manager, IRCTC (Western zone), was formed to inquire into the episode. Feedback about the quality of food was taken from passengers, almost all of whom said the food served was satisfactory. Food samples were found to be within their expiry dates,” said a statement from the railways.
Of the 294 passengers onboard the Tejas Express, 230 were served breakfast consisting of omelette, cutlet, tea, coffee and juice at 9.30 am followed by tomato soup at 12.30 pm. Passengers reported not feeling well from 12.30 pm onwards.
The railways’ statement quotes the tour manager of the group from Kolkata, Kajal Chakravarti, who said there was no problem with the food quality. “As many as six passengers of the 16 from the group from Himachal Pradesh and six others from the group of 23 travelling from Kolkata fell ill on the train. Food poisoning could have been caused by food eaten days in advance or by bacterial infection, which can develop days later. This may have triggered the first two cases of vomiting. The uneasiness and smell caused the other passengers to throw up,” said a member of the committee.
“It is true that food poisoning could be caused by bacterial growth after consumption of stale food over a period of days. The same is referred to as gestation and the poisoning may be triggered after consumption of other meals. However, as many as 40 passengers feeling nauseous due to the air-conditioning in the coach is something which should be checked,” said Manish Deliwala, a general physician based out of Chembur.
The Food and Drug Administration of Maharashtra said they were not sent any food samples from the meals served on the train for testing. “The railways has not asked us for any inspection. As per protocol, they have their own food safety officer to test the food samples,” said Maharashtra FDA Commissioner Pallavi Darade.