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Keelung, Yilan, Hualien stop using flat rice noodles in school lunches

03/29/2024 11:33 PM
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CNA file photo for illustrative purpose only
CNA file photo for illustrative purpose only

Taipei, March 29 (CNA) The local governments of Keelung City, Yilan County and Hualien County announced on Friday they will ban the use of flat rice noodles in school lunches amid safety concerns, following a fatal food poisoning incident believed to have been caused by such ingredients.

Twenty-one people fell ill after eating at a branch of the Malaysian restaurant chain Polam Kopitiam in Taipei's Xinyi District last week. Two died on March 24 and March 27, according to the Ministry of Health and Welfare.

Most of the sickened individuals said they had eaten "char kway teow" -- a Malaysian stir-fried flat rice noodle dish that contains egg -- between March 19 and 24, the ministry reported.

On Friday, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) confirmed that Bongkrekic acid, a rare toxin induced by the contamination of bacterium Burkholderia gladioli, was detected in eight diners, including the two deceased.

The Yilan and Hualien county governments subsequently announced that flat rice noodles would be banned from school lunches for the time being, effective immediately, to safeguard students' health, while Keelung said it would begin a similar ban starting April 1.

The local governments all said they would use other food ingredients to replace flat rice noodles, and added that the suspension will last until safety concerns surrounding Bongkrekic acid come to an end.

Meanwhile, the Ministry of Education did not ban schools from using flat rice noodles but instructed them not to use re-heated food or "semi-finished food products that no longer need to be cooked" for school lunches, without elaborating on what the later part means.

However, the ministry reminded schools and meal providers that school meals have to be made on the same day they are served.

According to the latest CDC figures, among the 21 people reported to have fallen ill after eating at Polam Kopitiam's Xinyi restaurant between March 19 and March 24, 18 sought medical attention in the Greater Taipei area and Tainan.

Of the 18, five are in critical condition, one has been transferred to a regular ward, and 10 have been discharged, the data showed.

(By Worthy Shen, Chang Chi, Chen Chih-chung and Elizabeth Hsu)


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