Six die after China cook mistakes poison for flour

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BEIJING, Nov 19 (Reuters) A Chinese cook reached for a packet of rat poison thinking it was flour when making rice dumplings, inadvertently killing himself and five others, state media said today.

The six died after eating dumpling soup last week, prompting a police investigation to see if any crime had been committed, the Shanghai Daily said.

Chen Ruyan, who worked at a recycling station in the central province of Hubei, was preparing lunch last Sunday.

''In the process, Chen found the rice dough he was preparing for making ''tangyuan'' (rice dumplings) was quite watery and he decided to add more rice flour,'' the Shanghai Daily said.

''Unfortunately, he mistook rat poison that had been placed together with other condiments as flour and mixed it into the dough.'' Investigators found Chen, who sold rat poison as a business, had put the chemicals in the kitchen when he moved home.

China is in the middle of a nationwide campaign to improve food and product safety after a string of international scares that have tainted its export reputation.

But the government is also worried about lax safety endangering the country's own citizens. Reports of usually non-fatal food poisoning at school canteens and restaurants, especially in the countryside, are common.

REUTERS SKB BST0845

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