Cape Town - Thirty-seven people in Overcome Heights near Seawinds, including children, were rushed to nearby hospitals on Wednesday evening after allegedly eating bowls of soiled samp.
Community leaders, parents and local Overcome residents say they are still trying to rationalise the shocking incident that saw their relatives and neighbours taken into emergency care for food poisoning.
Community leader Sylvia Carstens said she was shocked and upset that the incident had occurred and that innocent people were hurt due to diligence not having taken place.
Carstens, who runs her soup kitchen in the community, said that usually when non-profit or government organisations come into the area to donate food or edible items she checks them herself to see if they are okay to eat. However, she had not had the opportunity to do so with this batch of samp.
“I got a call at about 9pm just as I was preparing for bed. They told me to come quickly because there was an incident. I went over and what I saw I can’t even put into words right now. People were so sick and just lying there powerless. They had all eaten samp that had been brought in by the Red Cross.”
“Women and children, they were all sick. I tried my best to get them help as best as I could. Almost half were taken to the hospitals but some refused because they weren’t sure if they would have transport to come back.
“I don’t understand how people can be so irresponsible with the lives of others. I make samp here as well and no person has ever fallen sick, something had to have been wrong,” said Carstens.
ER24 spokesperson Russel Meiring said: “Life Healthcare and Metro Services arrived on St Patrick Avenue at 10.10pm on Wednesday to find several adults and children crowded around two informal homes.
“It is believed that the people had all eaten from a community-cooked batch of food before they began experiencing stomach cramps, nausea and vomiting symptoms.
“Medics assessed the patients and found that 37 people, including several children, were complaining of severe stomach cramps, nausea and vomiting. The patients were treated and thereafter transported to nearby clinics for urgent care,” said Meiring.
Sixty-three-year-old resident Sophia Davids, who also fell sick after eating the samp, said: “The sad thing is I didn’t even eat that much of the samp but I still got sick. Today I’m feeling a bit better but last night I was in so much pain. I had the worst cramps and diarrhoea.”
ER Doctor Irma Aggenbach described the symptoms associated with food poisoning, saying that the most noticeable would be abdominal pain, nausea, vomiting and diarrhoea.
Red Cross Western Cape spokesperson Fernel Campher confirmed that the alleged batch of soiled samp was food served at a community engagement the organisation was hosting in the area on Wednesday afternoon.
“Red Cross works with various organisations in communities across the City. We host various community engagements initiatives in local communities, such as Covid-19 communication, working with leaders we try to dispel Covid-19 and vaccine myths.”
“What happened in Overcome was an isolated incident; we have worked with the organisation that supplied the food before, numerous times. Disaster Risk Management is investigating the incident, and the Department of Environmental Health took a sample of the food for testing.
“The organisation is co-operating with the investigation and tomorrow we will meet with relevant departments to continue our investigation into the incident. We are also expecting to get the results of the tests back,” said Campher.