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Seven villagers killed by rat poison at banquet
2005-07-25 04:29:16 THE ASSOCIATED PRESS

BEIJING, Jul 25 (AP) -- Seven Chinese villagers died after a cook mistakenly used rat poison instead of starch in fish soup served at a banquet, a news report said Monday.

The other 30 guests at the banquet Friday in the central Chinese city of Xiaogan were hospitalized, one in critical condition, the Xinhua News Agency said. It said the banquet was given by a villager to mark the seventh day since his mother's death.

China has suffered hundreds of deaths from such poisonings in recent years -- some intentional but many blamed on cooks mistakenly using poisons or industrial chemicals for salt and other ingredients.

The poison in the deaths Friday was dushuqiang, a powerful rat poison that Chinese police say often is used in attacks motivated by personal grudges or business disputes.

It was banned in the early 1990s as too toxic for general use but is widely available from illegal producers.

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