Based on preliminary tests, the Ministry of Health suspects that the case involving the food poisoning of 11 persons in December 2010 may be as a result of them ingesting sodium nitrite also known as salt petre. The Ministry is awaiting the final investigation report from the Government Chemist, which is expected to be submitted by Monday, January 10, 2011.Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Sheila Campbell Forrester explained that two additional persons recently presented with similar symptoms. She said they responded quickly to treatment and have already been released from hospital.On the instructions of the Minister of Health, Hon. Rudyard Spencer, a meeting and field investigations were conducted in St. Ann Friday afternoon which led to the following decisions:
To restrict access by removing salt petre from the shelves of supermarkets and shops. Persons will only be able to access the product on request.
The Ministry will be collaborating with the Ministry of Industry, Investment and Commerce to ensure that the packaging is appropriate so that the product cannot be easily mistaken for table salt.
The Ministry will be engaging other agencies and Ministries to have a stakeholder consultation which will include manufacturers to among other things, review the labeling and packaging of salt petre with a bid to making recommendations for any amendments that may be required.
The Ministry will conduct public education to inform persons about the product and the risks involved in consuming more than the recommended amount.
In all instances of poisoning, persons reported that they thought that they were using table salt. The meeting involved persons from the Ministry of Industry, Investment and Commerce (Bureau of Standards), the Ministry of Health’s head office and the North East Regional Health Authority.The Ministry will continue to monitor the situation and provide more information as it becomes available.