Probe launched after food poisoning incident

Three girls, aged between 6 and 8, died at a local clinic after falling ill at a Gauteng primary school.

Maria Mahlangu, mother of Mbali (8), being consoled after her daughter died of food poisoning along with two other girls on 25 September 2014 in Winterveld, Pretoria. Picture: Govan Whittles/EWN

JOHANNESBURG - The Gauteng Education Department says it is investigating all staff and volunteers who handled food distributed to pupils at the Ema Primary School following the death of three young girls.

The pupils, aged between 6 and 8, died at a local clinic shortly after falling ill on Thursday.

The children apparently ate government-supplied food as well as snacks.

The department confirmed more than 1,000 pupils who ate from the same feeding scheme as the girls are in good health.

Gauteng Education MEC Panyaza Lesufi says all the pupils were observed overnight and an independent legal team is now investigating what lead to the deaths.

"We have 1,100 kids here. The parents confirmed that they don't think it's the food. They feel that someone might have poisoned their children and that is why we have asked the police to investigate that."

Some parents weren't happy with how the meals were prepared.

"That room they are cooking the food in, the people who are making the food for the children, they are dirty."

Lesufi says he is hopeful the outcome of forensic tests conducted on the food samples as well as an investigation into those who prepared the food will reveal who is responsible for the deaths.

Earlier on Friday, relative Klaas Mahlangu told Eyewitness News , "This thing was made deliberately to destroy this family."

Meanwhile, the police's Kabelo Maruma says all three children died after being rushed to the clinic.

He says officials opened an inquest docket but have not yet started the investigation, which requires a medical report.