This story has been going on for several weeks on ProMED, but I
thought I'd wait to see how it unfolded. Figured some of you might
DROPSY, EPIDEMIC - INDIA (DELHI) (06)
A ProMED-mail post
Date: Mon, 31 Aug 1998 16:25:36 -0500
Source: News media
Via: Clyde Markon
Several northern and eastern Indian states banned the sale of mustard
oil last week as the death toll in the capital climbed. Mustard oil is
used mostly in the eastern and northern states for cooking.
Hundreds of people complained of swollen limbs, vomiting and breathing
and cardiac problems after consuming adulterated oil. At least 15
people have died and more than 500 have been treated in hospital.
Dropsy is caused by the toxic alkaloid sanguinarine present in
argemone oil, which -- whether added accidentally or deliberately --
adulterates mustard oil. Pyruvic acid accumulates in the blood after
consumption of adulterated oil. The patient develops swollen legs and
suffers from loose bowels, breathing difficulties and, in some cases,
Indian newspaper reports said there was evidence that cooking oil had
also been mixed with machine oil by unscrupulous businessmen.
Date: Thu, 3 Sep 1998 16:03:44 -0500
Source: News media
Via: Martin Hugh-Jones
Killer cooking oil kills four more in Delhi, dropsy toll 41
NEW DELHI, Sept 2 - Four more people died in New Delhi from dropsy
caused by adulterated mustard oil as Indian authorities stepped up
efforts to seize stocks of the oil, officials said Wednesday.
New Delhi city Health Minister Harsh Vardhan said the four deaths
overnight took to 41 the number of fatalities in New Delhi since
August 21 when the first dropsy death was reported there.
City authorities banned the sale of mustard oil here on August 26 and
two days later sounded a nationwide alert.
Twelve of India's 26 states have banned sales since the outbreak of
dropsy, which causes swelling of the limbs, accompanied by
breathlessness and nausea.
Doctors say if it is not checked it can lead to glaucoma or fatal
Health minister Vardhan said 573 people were currently in hospitals
with symptoms of dropsy while 1185 others had been released after
He said 113 new dropsy patients had been admitted to various hospitals
A report from the northern Himalayan state of Kashmir, meanwhile, said
seven people including five women were taken to hospital Wednesday
The Delhi government has called for a full-scale inquiry by High Court
judges into the source of the adulterated mustard oil, which is a
popular cooking oil and a key agent for the pickle industry.
Vardhan said the government has so far pressed charges against 37
mustard oil producers for allegedly lacing the oil with cheap
petroleum lubricants and other toxins.
Most fast-food centres in India, including subsidiaries of western
chains, have taken mustard off their menus following the outbreak.
Nepal and Bangladesh have also taken precautions against the smuggling
of contaminated mustard oil from neighbouring India.
Two men were killed in the eastern state of Bihar when police fired at
a mob protesting against the seizure of stocks of mustard oil, the
Press Trust of India reported on Wednesday.
Police opened fire Tuesday in the town of Kasnagar after some 200
protestors attacked them with stones following a raid on shops.
Five other demonstrators and a few policemen were also injured.
Date: Wed, 02 Sep 1998 15:53:16 -0500
Source: South China Morning Post - Internet Edition, 2 Sep 1998
Via: Clyde Markon
On Monday [31 Aug 1998] several brands of ghee, or clarified butter,
another popular cooking medium, were withdrawn after officials from
the Prevention of Food Adulteration Department discovered they had
Michele Gale-Sinex, communications manager
Center for Integrated Ag Systems
UW-Madison College of Ag and Life Sciences
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