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Portuguese officials probe cause of children’s food poisoning

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Authorities in Portugal are investigating after up to 70 children needed hospital treatment earlier this month in the country.

The Economic and Food Safety Authority (ASAE) through its Southern Regional Unit went to the city of Beja to follow up the alert of illness and discover the cause of suspected food poisoning.

ASAE and local public health agencies said the sick children showed symptoms potentially because of contaminated food consumption.

Local officials in Beja reported on May 18 that three children were hospitalized and another three were under observation but the rest had been discharged.

An inspection revealed the origin was linked to a center that provided meals to five schools in Beja for lunch.

This involved seizing 240 eggs that had expired and 40 kilograms of food products. Samples of food made at the center and part of the weekly menu will be analyzed by the food safety laboratory of ASAE.

The Trade Union Association of Employees of the ASAE (ASF-ASAE) claimed it was not possible to carry out the analysis of samples in the food safety lab because of the lack of reagents, so it had to be done by someone else.

Egg and supplement operations
Meanwhile, ASAE has also seized more than a million eggs in the Centro region of Portugal.

Photo courtesy of ASAE

The Economic and Food Safety Authority action involved the inspection of egg sorting and packing centers.

In one case they found falsified documents as the identification mark of another establishment was used. Other violations included the lack of daily records, eggs put on the market without an identification mark and lack of mandatory information on transport packages, such as the date of dispatch and quantity.

Officials suspended the activity of one facility with 1,320,160 eggs being seized at a value of close to €65,000 ($79,000).

Finally, the agency has uncovered an unauthorized operation producing and selling food supplements with the help of the National Republican Guard (GNR) of Santa Comba Dão.

A regional unit of the authority carried out two home search warrants and found a unit for the production, storage and sale of supplements in Santa Comba Dão, in Viseu.

An investigation started after a suspicion that food supplements with cannabis could be being produced. Cannabidiol extraction was being carried out to make food supplements and natural oils destined for the UK market.

Officials suspended operations because of a lack of licensing and non-compliance with hygiene requirements. They seized 3,930,000 empty capsules and 428,000 filled capsules without labeling, chemicals, documents, machinery and packaging. Value of the seized material is up to €85,000 ($104,000).

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