8 Children, 1 Adult Die After Food Poisoning Incident

A tragic incident unfolded on the remote Pemba Island, located in the Zanzibar archipelago off Africa’s eastern coast, when eight children and an adult succumbed to food poisoning after consuming sea turtle meat. The adult victim was the mother of one of the deceased children. The incident, which occurred earlier this week, also resulted in the hospitalization of at least 78 other individuals who had eaten the same meat.

Dr. Haji Bakari, the medical officer for Mkoani District, confirmed that laboratory tests had verified the consumption of sea turtle meat by all those who fell ill. The meat is known to cause a lethal form of food poisoning known as chelonitoxism. This incident mirrors a similar event that occurred on Pemba Island in November 2021, where seven people, including a three-year-old, died after eating turtle meat.

Despite the known risks, sea turtle meat is considered a delicacy in Zanzibar, a semi-autonomous region that, along with Tanganyika, forms the United Republic of Tanzania. The National Institutes of Health warns that chelonitoxism can cause gastrointestinal symptoms, followed by neurologic, hepatic, and renal toxicity. The toxin can also be passed from breastfeeding mothers to their infants, leading to fatal consequences.

The majority of the victims in this recent incident were children, who are particularly vulnerable to chelonitoxism. The toxin can be transmitted to nursing infants through their mothers’ breast milk, posing a significant risk to this demographic.

In response to the tragic event, Zanzibar authorities have dispatched a disaster management team to the region. The team is tasked with educating the public about the dangers of consuming sea turtle meat and urging them to refrain from eating it.