Fri, 19 Aug 1994

Woman caterer wanted over food poisoning

JAKARTA (JP): North Jakarta police are still searching for a female caterer who provided meals believed to have caused an outbreak of food poisoning among workers of PT Charoen Pokphand Indonesia on Wednesday.

"We are still looking for the woman," Lt. Col. Latief Rabar, a spokesman for City Police, announced yesterday.

An employee of PT Charoen Pokphand identified the woman caterer as Bu (Mrs.) Enny, but he claimed to have no idea about her whereabouts.

Latief said 95 employees of PT Charoen Pokphand complained of food poisoning during a family gathering on Wednesday at the factory's premises on Jl. Ancol Barat, Pademangan district, North Jakarta.

PT Charoen Pokphand Indonesia, a subsidiary of the Thailand- based multinational, produces fodder.

The gathering, attended by some 1,000 family members and workers, was held to celebrate Indonesia's 49th Independence Day.

Latief said the party began with some plays in the morning, which were followed by a coffee break at 9 a.m.

No one complained of food poisoning at that time, which led police to believe that the poisoning was not caused by the snack they had with coffee.

Around 2 p.m. the groupants lunched on nasi rames, or rice with a mixture of dishes including meat, eggs, and vegetables, packed in styrofoam boxes.

Several minutes later, a large number of people complained of stomach ache and then began projectile vomiting, turning what had been an innocent family gathering into a nightmare event.

Panic set in before several levelheaded participants worked to transport the sick to the nearby Husada and Atmajaya hospitals. In all, 95 people, including dozens of children, were hospitalized.

Police received news of the catastrophe three hours after the event turned foul.

"Above all, police found that the front lawn, where the party took place, had already been cleared of the remains of the food and puke, which could have been used as evidence. It is really not helpful for our investigation," Lt. Wahyudi, deputy chief of Pademangan district police, was quoted by Latief as saying.

Police confiscated three styrofoam boxes of the nasi rames, a bag of bread, and a beverage bottle labeled "untouched" at the site and sent them to the laboratory at the national police headquarters for further examination.

Police also questioned several employees of the firm in connection with the case, including Hendra Bratanata who was said to be the chairman of the party's organizing committee, his staff members, Irsan Sukamto and Dasuki as well as two security guards, identified as Firmanto Sukotjo and Wahyu.

Most of the 95 people hospitalized were allowed to return home after receiving brief medical treatment.

"Only 17 people remained hospitalized as of yesterday," Latief said. (jsk)