On the first day of the Navratri festival, over 70 people fell ill after consuming food items made from buckwheat flour (katu la aata) after breaking their day-long fast in Haridwar, officials said. Several such cases of food poisoning were reported on Friday night and Saturday morning at villages of Kangdi , Gajiwali, Shyampur, Brahampuri and saint-dominated cluster of Bhoopatwala.
All the affected people had consumed chapatis and pakodis made of buckwheat flour in the late evening after breaking their day-long fast ritual. They are being treated at the district general hospital, Mela hospital and a Shyampur-based private hospital.
District Magistrate Vinay Shankar Pandey along with city magistrate Avdesh Singh visited the district and Mela hospital on Saturday and directed health officials to ensure proper treatment of all the affected people.
“Proper medical treatment and care is being ensured for affected people. At district Chamanrai hospital 37 patients and at Mela hospital 35 patients are admitted. All of them had consumed buckwheat-made fast-breaking food items. Two distributors have been identified who supplied buckwheat flour to the shopkeepers and grocery stores. Stringent action will be taken against the culprits and sampling is being done,” said district magistrate Vinay Shankar Pandey.
Public representatives also visited the affected people at the hospitals.
“Food poisoning has been reported from Shyampur, Gaziwali,Bhoopatwala, Jogiyamandi, Brahampuri areas. I have directed chief medical superintendent, Dr Rajesh Gupta, to ensure proper treatment as well as their diet as the patients were observing fast. We will not spare the culprits who played with the life and religious sentiments of devotees,” said city legislator Madan Kaushik after meeting the patients at the district hospital.
Notably, buckwheat flour is considered pious and healthy by devotees who observe fast on Navratri as well as other religious occasions. District food safety officer RS Pal said that people should avoid buying buckwheat flour from open sacks and ensure the expiry date is checked before buying. He further added that sampling is being taken of buckwheat flour from distributors’ godowns and general shopkeepers’ shops across the district.
The district administration has imposed a prohibition of the sale of buckwheat flour till further directive. Last year during Chaitra Navratri, 30 people in Haridwar and 20 in Haripur Kalan village on the border of Dehradun and Haridwar districts reported food poisoning after consumption of buckwheat flour.
In October 2020 Sharadiya Navratra too, 40 people had complained of food poisoning in Roorkee after consuming buckwheat flour.
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