A 13-year-old girl died earlier this week after consuming an aerated drink at her house in Besant Nagar in Chennai. The shop which sold the product has been shut down, and the food safety department has temporarily closed the beverage company’s manufacturing unit in Sholavaram.
The Shastri Nagar police said the post-mortem revealed the girl died of asphyxiation after the drink entered her respiratory system. The police said she was asthmatic, and had been told not to consume anything cold. However, on August 3 (Tuesday), when her mother was not around, the girl consumed the soft drink in a hurry and collapsed.
“The girl had consumed porridge at around 9 am. She had then spent time with her elder sister Ashwini (17). Around 1 pm, she went to buy two bottles of ‘Togito Cola’ from a nearby shop. She opened one and consumed a little before entering her house. On seeing the bottle, Ashwini had scolded her. In a hurry to finish the drink before it was taken away, she gulped down more. The girl immediately started coughing and vomiting,” an official at the police station said.
“Ashwini ran to a nearby church, where their mother worked, to inform her. Before they could return home, the child had collapsed. The neighbours helped the family take her to PM Hospital in Adyar, where she was declared dead on arrival,” the official added.
According to the police, the postmortem report said it was a case of “asphyxia due to aspiration”.
The family resides in Odaikuppam area, and the girl is a Class VII student at a government school in Kalpakkam. They had shifted to Besant Nagar to stay at her grandmother’s house due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
The family has alleged the shop was selling expired products, a claim denied by the police.
Sumitra, the grandmother of the girl told IndianExpress.com, “Less than 20 minutes after her death, her body started to turn blue. This made us suspicious, and that’s when we checked the bottle and realised it was expired.
“We have lost our girl because of negligence of the shopkeeper. We want to make sure this doesn’t happen to anyone else, which is why we want the shop to be permanently shut,” she added.
A neighbour, echoing allegations against the shopkeeper, claimed there have been similar issues in the past. “When we approach him and say the milk is spoilt or the biscuit packet seal is open, he blames it on us and says it is not his mistake. We have stopped buying items from him for a while.”
The police, however, said the product was well within the expiration date.
The police has also seized 40 other bottles from the shop. Officials said the shop was closed as a precautionary measure as the owner was from a different community, and it was to avoid any untoward incident.
Meanwhile, food safety department officials from the Ponneri Revenue Divisional Office have sealed the manufacturing unit of the soft drink. About 540 bottles of the same batch which were dispatched to different shops in the city have been recalled.
“Food safety department officials have sent about 11 bottles they had gathered from the shop for analysis. We have also taken a sample from the bottle the girl drank. Further investigation will be carried once we receive the lab results,” the police said.
Ravishankar, a paedriatician, told IndianExpress.com, “Food or liquids which obstruct the food pipe (trachea or bronchus), which carry oxygen to the lungs, results in asphyxia. But it is a rare occurrence.” He added that the substance present in the drink may have caused anaphylaxis as well.
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