Students across all four venues complained of retching, fainting and headaches soon after the food was served; parents blame poor management
The much-hyped Indian International Model United Nations (IIMUN) conference, the world’s largest model UN convention, came under a cloud on Thursday when 300-400 participating school children took ill after eating the lunch served by popular food service provider Box8 across various venues.
The much-hyped Indian International Model United Nations (IIMUN) conference, the world’s largest model UN convention, came under a cloud on Thursday when 300-400 participating school children took ill after eating the lunch served by popular food service provider Box8 across various venues
IIMUN programmes were hosted at KC College, Thadomal Sahani College of Engineering, Whistling Woods Institute and Lala Lajpatrai College on Thursday. The organizers said there were around 1,500 students at each of the four centres. Within 30 minutes of the food being served, 20-30 students vomited at each centre.
Students from schools like Parle Tilak, Beacon High, Gurukul and Billabong were among Thursday’s participants.
Akshata Jain, director general of IIMUN, in an email statement, said, “Around 300-400 people fell ill, vomited and fainted, and have been hospitalized.”
Sanjay B Jumani, whose daughter complained of uneasiness at the Bandra centre, said the session began at 9.30 am and the participants were served vegetable biryani with a curry around 12.30 pm. “Within 45 minutes, the children began vomiting. A few of them were sent home by teachers.”
Jumani received an SOS call from his daughter around 3 pm. “As I neared the college, I saw many of them throwing up. Two of them were in a bad shape; they were shivering and lying on the floor. I spoke
to their parents and rushed them to the Hinduja Healthcare in Khar.”
Another parent, whose daughter — a student of Shishuvan in Matunga — was at Lala Lajpat Rai College, said the child later revealed that the curry had a foul smell.
“She vomited more than three times and has a severe stomachache. It wasn’t just the quality of food. The venue was cramped and stuffy. It was very hot. Even after the children threw up, there was no one to clean up the mess.”
The food, pointed out a parent of another affected student, had arrived in packed boxes. “In this heat, it’s very important to have a reliable provider that meets all quality standards and follows the appropriate food transport/serving procedures. He, too, pointed at poor management by IIMUN organisers. “For an event this big, everything must be planned well.”
Another parent agreed. “The event was poorly organised. The organisers did not even look after the children’s health. My child had eaten just one morsel of the food when some volunteer asked her to throw it. But she still threw up three times at the venue. After an injection and some pills, her condition is now stable.”
No FIR yet
Shubhadra Shenoy, vice-principal of Shishuvan School, said some students threw up and others complained of headache. “No one is seriously ill. Many students did not eat the lunch because they felt that the food had gone bad.” Two of the 50 students of Shishuvan School complained of vomiting; others reported headaches.
Two of the 65 students of HVB Global Academy, Churchgate, who were at KC College, too, vomited, said principal Chandrakanta Pathak. Other participants from the school complained of headache and nausea; a lucky few did not touch the food. “The school and parents have decided to withdraw our participation. An email will be sent to the organizers about this irresponsible conduct and our money should be reimbursed,” said Pathak.
Deputy Commissioner of Police Dhananjay Kulkarni said during the seminar at Thadomal Sahani College of Engineering, which had around 1,400 students participated in it, five students vomited within half an hour of the food packets being served. “Three were taken to Hinduja in Khar and two to Holy Family Hospital. Of these, two have been discharged. The others are still in hospital, but out of danger. An investigation into the food poisoning is on.”
According to Kulkarni, the police are recording statements, but no FIR has been filed.
Sourced from Thane
Rishabh Shah, founder-president of IIMUN, said the organisers had a commercial agreement with Box8 for Thursday’s events. “When reports of food poisoning came in, we asked Box8 to make alternative arrangements for food. But it refused to do so. All organisers had to together raise a fund of around R10 lakh from our pockets to provide food to the participants.”
As per the agreement, the food was to be sourced by Box8 from four different venues to ensure that it would remain hot and fresh.
“We later found out that all of the food came from a place in Thane. Box8 officials did not bother to even take a review of the situation. The least they can do is tender a public apology,” said Shah. IIMUN said it planned to file a police complaint.
Anshul Gupta, co-founder of Box8, did not respond to mid-day’s several calls, SMSes and an email with a detailed questionnaire. Box8’s PR office had assured that it would get back with a statement, but it, too, didn’t respond.
IIMUN comprises youths in the age group of 16-24.
Box8 is an Indian on-demand food delivery company based in Mumbai. The company was founded by Amit Raj and Anshul Gupta in 2012. At present, Box8 has 22 stores in Mumbai.