Indian authorities probe deaths caused by ‘contaminated’ medicinal syrup

By Sumit Khanna

AHMEDABAD, India (Reuters) – Authorities in India’s western state of Gujarat are investigating the deaths of three people after they allegedly consumed a contaminated medicinal syrup, state government and police officials said on Thursday.

The deaths took place over the last three days in the district of Kheda, district collector KL Bachani told Reuters.

The syrup may also have caused two more deaths in Kheda in the past few days but this has yet to be confirmed, senior state government officials said.

“Preliminary investigation has shown chemical contamination in the syrup. Investigation has also shown that the syrup was brought from outside the state. We are conducting a detailed probe and initiating legal steps,” state health minister Rushikesh Patel said of the three confirmed deaths.

Some people developed symptoms of vomiting, disorientation and chest pain after consuming an Ayurvedic syrup ‘Kal Meghasava’, bought from a local shop, senior police official, Prem Vir Singh said.

“The syrup samples show traces of methyl alcohol, which may be the cause of death of the three persons who consumed it,” Singh said.

Ayurveda is an ancient system of medicine practised by millions in India.

Singh said the name of the syrup as well as the manufacturer’s name and address on the bottle were fictitious.

“We have detained the seller and supplier of the contaminated syrup and are questioning them about the source of the medicine,” Singh said, adding that the state health department was also conducting its own investigation.

Since last October, the World Health Organization and other health agencies have found cough and cold syrups made by several Indian companies were contaminated.

Singh said test results were awaited on the two other people who had died in another village of Kheda. “They died at the same time and had similar symptoms as the others. We suspect the cause of their death could be the same,” he said.

Kheda Superintendent of Police Rajesh Gadhiya said that one more person, who had consumed the syrup, is under treatment.

(Reporting by Sumit Khanna, writing by Shilpa Jamkhandikar, editing by Susan Fenton)