A DAY after at least 20 students were rushed to hospitals after consuming food supplied at four venues of an inter-collegiate seminar, the Mumbai Police
registered a case against the caterers. The Khar police station registered a case against Mumbai-based Poncho Hospitality Pvt. Ltd, which owns and operates a quick service restaurant (QSR) chain under the brand name of “Box8”. Unknown employees of the company have been booked for offences affecting public health and safety under the Indian Penal Code.
The incident occurred on Thursday afternoon during events organised by the India International Model United Nations (IIMUN), a non-political network of students. Nearly 4,000 students from different colleges were part of the seminar at four venues. About 1,000 consumed the lunch, police said.
According to statements recorded by the police, the organizers said the food was manufactured and packed in Bandra Kurla Complex. “Investigations, however, reveal the food came from Thane,” said Police Inspector Dinesh Kadam of Khar police.
“We have not yet made any arrests. We are following logistics chain of the food unit and looking for lapses. Prima facie it appears the food was spoilt due to a delay but who is responsible has still not been revealed from our investigation,” said a senior police officer.
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) on Friday carried out an inspection of Box8 factory in Thane from where the food parcels, containing rajma, rice and tomato curry, were prepared. “We are inspecting how the food was prepared, if any sub-standard procedures were followed. The premises are being checked for hygiene,” said Suresh Deshmukh, joint commissioner of Food at FDA.
On Thursday, samples of food and vomit were collected from the event venue and sent for lab analysis at Kalina, police said.
According to Jinay Sheth, a 15-year-old student from Green Lawns High School, he experienced stomach pain half-an-hour after lunch. “He could smell something foul in the parcel but he was so hungry he did not suspect the food had gone stale,” said his grandfather Mukesh Sheth.
Jinay first later vomited. By 3.30 pm he was rushed to Jaslok Hospital by event volunteers. On Friday morning, he was discharged. According to doctors, he was put on intravenous drip but did not require a stomach wash.
Divya and Vanshika Rajpariya, in sixth and eighth classes of Whistling Wood school, were lucky. They got delayed at lunch and were later given pizzas when organisers realized the food was stale. “By the time my children reached for lunch, they realized something was wrong with the food packets as other students had started complaining,” said their mother Trupti Rajpariya.
The organisers stopped the remaining students from consuming the food and subsequently ordered pizza for lunch. On Friday, pizzas were again ordered for participants but the number of students who turned up for the event had reduced by half, organizers claimed. Of the four admitted to Jaslok hospital, two were discharged on Friday. According to medical director Dr Tarang Gianchandani, no one was critical but two students will be kept under observation for another day. At Bhatia hospital, two students remain admitted but were said to be “stable and recovering well”.
Meanwhile, a statement from Box8 read, “We are deeply concerned about news report of illness caused to some students yesterday. Box8 maintains rigorous quality process through preparation of food and delivery system, including tasting the food before serving, which too was followed yesterday without any adverse results. Matter is being inquired by the authorities and we have been fully co-operating to identify the cause. Once the cause is identified Box8 will spare no efforts to deal with the same.