NABARANGPUR : Three members of a family died after eating cakes made from mango kernel powder at Mainapadar village in Nabarangpur district on Tuesday. Another member is critically ill and undergoing treatment at the Saheed Laxman Nayak Medical College and Hospital in Koraput. The tragedy struck the family of one Arjuna Santa with the deceased identified as his 15-year-old sister Namita, wife Sudhamani and sister-inlaw Pramila while his son Prakash is critical.

According to reports, the family had used the leftover mango kernel powder from last week to prepare traditional cakes and consumed those during dinner on Monday night. Soon after, Sudhamani, Prakash, Namita and Pramila started vomiting followed by acute diarrhoea. While Namita’s condition became critical and she succumbed at their home later in the night, the three others were rushed to the community health centre at Jhargram from where they were referred to District Headquarters Hospital (DHH).

Sudhamani succumbed on her way to the DHH on Tuesday morning while Prakash and Pramila were shifted to Saheed Laxman Nayak Medical College and Hospital in Koraput. Pramila died in the evening even as Prakash, who is suffering from diarrhoea and nausea, is under treatment. Additional District Medical Officer Sivarani Mishra said preliminary diagnosis points to deaths due to food poisoning but the exact reason behind the deaths can be known only after postmortem. She added that a team of doctors has been sent to Mainpadar village to take stock of the situation.

It is learnt that the family had cooked gruel with rice and mango kernel powder a week back. They did not suffer from any health complications then. The remaining powder was used to make cakes on the fateful night. While the incident has rekindled memories of deaths due to consumption of mango kernel by poverty stricken tribals in backward districts to ward off hunger, the district administration has dismissed any such possibility.

Collector Ajit Mishra said Arjuna is economically sound and has two tractors and a car. Deaths from contaminated mango kernel is not uncommon in the tribal dominated southern Odisha districts. Mango kernel is consumed as part of their dietary culture. In 2001, however, death of 24 people in Kashipur in Rayagada district due to eating mango kernel gruel had hogged national headlines. The deaths were associated with poverty and starvation.