Published April 11, 2013
GUATEMALA CITY – Four people, including two children, died and 96 others were hospitalized Thursday for food poisoning in a town west of Guatemala's capital.
The fire department said the victims ate fruit and vegetables that weren't properly cleaned in the town of Santo Domingo Xenacoj. A doctor at one of the hospitals said the medical exams show the deaths were caused by E. coli bacteria.
Jose Morales, head doctor at the town's health center, told The Associated Press that dozens of people had been treated there.
"We were able to identify the bacteria E. coli and these bacteria grew because of the poor hygiene in the food," Morales said.
Cases of food poisoning are common in Guatemala, with E. coli infections causing deadly diarrhea in children. A fire department official, Amilcar Zapote, said the sale of produce was banned Thursday in Santo Domingo Xenacoj.
Local resident Julio Gervacio Rac said two of his children died in the outbreak, and his wife and three other children were still at the hospital. He said the family dined Wednesday night on broccoli and eggs purchased from a local market.
"I cannot even visit my wife and children in the hospital because I have to bury my other children," Rac said at his home, where he held a wake for his children, ages 9 and 12.
Guatemala exports broccoli and cauliflower to countries such as the United States, Japan and the United Kingdom.
Santo Domingo Xenacoj's mayor says farmers from the town export only avocados, zucchini and sugar peas.