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Alert on unripe litchis

The government on Wednesday cautioned people against eating unripe litchis since the fruit might contain a deadly mix of toxins, the suspected cause of death of seven children in Malda last week.

“The deaths were apparently caused by toxins present in unripe litchis… toxins are not found in ripe litchis. I appeal to the people not to consume unripe litchis. Children should not be given unripe litchis,” said Chandrima Bhattacharya, the minister of state for health.

She told the Assembly on Wednesday that the deaths were “unfortunate” but ruled out any negligence by Malda Medical College and Hospital, where the children died.

“Most of the children were brought to the hospital in a serious condition. There was no qualitative or quantitative deficit in the treatment,” Bhattacharya said.

Teams from the health department and the School of Tropical Medicine have been sent to Malda to collect samples for advanced tests.

From June 3 to 7, seven children between two and four years of age had died after apparently eating the seasonal fruit.

The hospital authorities had said that a virus in the fruit had caused the deaths.

Opposition leader Surjya Kanta Mishra, who was health minister during the Left rule in the state, wanted to know what caused the tragedy.

“After the incidents were reported it was said that some virus was responsible for the deaths. Today, we were told that a toxin in unripe litchis caused the deaths,” said Mishra.

“I request the government to seek expert opinion so we can ascertain the real reason,” he said.