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No contamination in IIT-B mess food: FDA

After FDA rules out Chinese food as the cause behind 500 students falling ill, caterers ask the institute to publicly announce that they have not been 'blacklisted'

Almost a month and a half after the Indian Institute of Technology-Bombay (IIT-B) blacklisted its mess caterer following the incident in which around 500 students fell ill after having dinner at the mess, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has ruled out the Chinese food catered as a possible cause of food poisoning.


Contagion: 500 students from hostels 12, 13 and 14 were affected by
the possible food contamination.
File pic 


As such, Aditya Caterers have now appealed to the institute to revoke the "blacklisted" announcement made in a press statement the institute issued on October 3 (see box). The food company says the statement has maligned their image as a responsible caterer.  

"The owners have written to IIT-B's finding committee to publicly announce that the caterers have not been blacklisted, but that the contract with the caterers has been discontinued. The statement issued about the caterers having been blacklisted has maligned their image -- they have been running this business for years," said a source from Aditya Caterers.

Absolved, but...
The caterers' request bears some standing since the FDA report doesn't mention any negative remarks to the effect that the food served by them was contaminated.

"The report is positive, there are no signs of contamination in the food," said Suresh Deshmukh, assistant commissioner food. But he added, "The only fault of the caterer was that they were running the canteen without a licence and the product that we had seized did not have the required date of manufacturing and other details required to be mentioned on packaged food. We are going to file a case against the vendor, retailer and manufacturer of the product for not having the proper label."

MiD DAY had earlier reported ('IIT Canteen owner didn't have licence to serve', October 4) that on inspection of documents, FDA discovered that the private caterer who had been running the IIT-B canteen did not have the mandatory premise licence to serve. Further, preliminary investigations of stool samples of IIT-B students, who suffered a bout of food poisoning, showed that the infection was caused by E coli bacteria.
 
Deshmukh revealed that reports on potable water served in the mess on the day of the incident are awaited, and that the water may be the prime reason for the food poisoning.

However, Jaya Joshi, Public Relations Officer, IIT-B, did not give a definitive response. "Once the finding committee working under the dean comes up with the final report, the institute will be able to answer. We don't want to comment on it," she said. 

The menu
Nearly 2,000 students live in IIT-B's hostels 12, 13 and 14, which share a common mess. In September, 500 students fell sick after having Chinese food -- not often on the menu -- served at the institute's canteen. Dinner comprised of fried rice, noodles, gobi manchurian, rice, dal and a dish of chicken. After the meal, many students complained of stomach ache and started vomiting the next morning.

'Blacklist' statement Abstract from the statement issued by IIT-B on October 3, 2011:
"An unfortunate event of food poisoning recently occurred at IIT-Bombay. An estimated number of 500 students reported, all with symptoms of similar illness, to the IIT Bombay hospital on September 26 and 27, 2011. Reports have suggested that the food consumed on Sunday, Sep 25, 2011 was the reason for food poisoning. A fresh tender for running the mess for Hostels 12, 13 and 14 is being floated and the mess contractors, M/s Aditya Caterers who were running this mess have been blacklisted."

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