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New turn in Indian boy’s death probe

Sajila Saseendran / 24 April 2012

The focus of an investigation into the death of a nine-year-old boy is likely to change after the Dubai Municipality ruled out food poisoning as the probable cause for a bout of vomiting and dizziness his family suffered.

Awad FK, an Indian child with special needs, was declared dead at Al Baraha Hospital after his entire family had a bout of vomiting, dizziness and mild diarrohea. His parents and elder brother were discharged from the hospital on Monday evening.

Since the family had eaten out the previous evening, preliminary investigation had centered on food poisoning as a possible cause for their illness.

However, the Dubai Municipality on Monday said its preliminary investigation did not indicate that the family had suffered food poisoning. This has now added strength to the second suspected cause — toxins from the pesticide used at the family’s neighbouring apartment in Al Muteena area.

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“According to the preliminary report, the food-borne investigation team thinks the cause of the symptoms and death was not food poisoning,” Senior Food Studies and Surveys Officer Bobby Krishna said in a statement. He noted that the symptoms appeared eight hours after the family took a common meal and five hours after taking the next meal at home. “It is documented that the bacterial toxins cause the poisoning after one hour (on an average) from taking the foods which are suspected to cause the food poisoning.”

The relative of the family didn’t suffer from any food poisoning symptoms although he ate the same meal from the restaurant.

Neither the Food Control Department nor the Dubai Health Authority received any notification from the restaurant at which the common meal was taken. “It is worth mentioning that the restaurant has sold the same meal to 19 customers around the same time,” Krishna said. He said inspectors had found the restaurant complied with the food safety standards.

Director of the department Khalid Mohammed Sherif Al Awadhi said the municipality’s food-borne investigation team had launched an investigation after being notified by the police about the suspected case of food poisoning.

“At about 9pm, the family had different foods at their home after they came from the restaurant. The mother and the deceased child suffered from the symptoms first on Saturday at about 2am. The symptoms were limited to vomiting, nausea, dizziness and mild diarrhea,” said Al Awadhi.

He said the father suffered from the same symptoms around 4am whereas the elder child suffered only from vomiting. “The team visited the family’s apartment accompanied by the Dubai Police. No food remains were found. However, unknown substances were found and submitted to the Dubai Police Laboratory for analysis,” he said.

“The family indicated that the unknown substances were herbal medicine used to stop the vomiting and diarrhea. The family also indicated that the deceased child was using Ayurvedic medicine because he had speech problems,” the official added.

The child’s father, Firoz Khan, said the family also believed that the poison could have come from the pesticide. “They did not tell us about using pesticide … we guessed it because they had sealed the flat’s door,” said Khan.

However, the manager of the family’s apartment building said that no other person in the building was affected and each flat has its split unit air conditioner. Brigadier Khalil Ibrahim Al Mansouri, Director of General Department of Criminal Investigation said a forensic report is expected within two days and it would help determine the cause of death.


With inputs from Amira Agarib

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