Police in a German state are investigating a suspected food poisoning incident after several people fell ill at a university.
Seven people reported health problems after consuming various foods or beverages during Monday lunchtime at the Technical University of Darmstadt (TU Darmstadt). The first people were taken to hospital with symptoms of intoxication and blueish discoloration of the extremities. The health of a 30-year-old student was critical.
The university later reported that all seven employees and staff members affected were feeling better and the last two affected people had left hospital.
The public prosecutor’s office in Darmstadt is leading the investigation and started proceedings on the initial suspicion of attempted murder.
Professor Tanja Brühl, president of TU Darmstadt, said the university was shocked in light of the apparent criminal act.
Police asked all people who had eaten or drunk in a building called “L2|01” on Monday that felt unwell or have blueish discoloration of the extremities to seek medical help immediately. Emergency services evacuated the site and blocked the immediate area. The building is the Department of Materials and Earth Sciences.
Officers inspected all other buildings on the Lichtwiese campus with the help of TU Darmstadt and did not find any further objects relevant to the incident.
Rooms have been searched for food and drinks to trace the origin of the substance that caused the poisoning. Food and water samples were also taken for laboratory testing.
Specialists from the Hessian State Criminal Police Office detected substances, including in items seized by police at the crime scene, which could have caused the symptoms experienced by those sick but they have not yet revealed what they are.
Police believe that between Aug. 20 and 23 several milk cartons and water vessels were mixed with a harmful substance that had a pungent smell. Beverages and water containers had been contaminated with chemical substances at various locations.
Law enforcement officials said there is no longer any acute risk but advised people to only consume food on the Lichtwiese campus that they have with them and that has been kept under supervision at all times.
Investigations are ongoing and police are trying to identify those behind the product tampering.
Angela Dorn, Minister of State for Higher Education, Research, Science and the Arts, said her thoughts are with those affected and their loved ones and wished them a speedy recovery.
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