Ten dead after eating contaminated meat stew at funeral in Peru

Food appears to have contained organophosphates, a family of chemicals used in pesticides

Tom Batchelor
Wednesday 08 August 2018 18:49
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A person is transported to a helicopter after eating contaminated food at a funeral in the Peruvian Andes
A person is transported to a helicopter after eating contaminated food at a funeral in the Peruvian Andes

At least 10 people have died and dozens are seriously ill after eating contaminated food at a funeral in Peru.

Out of around 50 people who became unwell following a wake in the Andean village of San Jose de Ushua on Monday, 10 died and 20 are in hospital, some in a critical condition.

The victims reported eating a meat dish – said to be the source of the contamination – and consuming a drink of fermented corn called chicha before falling ill within hours.

The food appeared to have contained organophosphates, a family of chemicals used in pesticides, Silvia Pessah, the country’s health minister, said.

Public prosecutors have taken samples of food and beverages served at the funeral for testing.

Peru's civil defence agency Indeci said patients were being evacuated from a rural hospital in Ayacucho, a southern Andean region that is home to indigenous Quechua-speaking farmers.

Among those to have died were the two sons of the man whose funeral was being held.

The village’s mayor was taken ill and his father and teenage nephew died.

"The whole village has been poisoned. I can't grasp it yet – I have lost my family. It's a huge tragedy, thank God I'm alive," Mayor Iván Villagomez Llamoca said.

Ms Pessah said there have been two incidents of organophosphate poisoning in the same region in recent months.

In 2013, 23 Indian school children died after eating food contaminated with the pesticide monocrotophos, a substance that belongs to the organophosphate family.

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