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Yonkers Illnesses Traced to Food

May 18, 2002

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YONKERS, N.Y. (AP) _ Doctors blamed tainted food Friday for the sudden illnesses among guests at a dinner party that triggered a chemical-contamination scare in downtown Yonkers.

Two people remained in critical condition Friday, a day after the outbreak of a rare blood-cell disease. Three were in stable condition and one was released from the hospital.

``I’m leaning toward non-crime based on medical advice,″ said Police Commissioner Charles Cola. ``Nobody has told us this is something that somebody put in the food.″

Cola added, however, that police were still treating the victims’ apartment as a crime scene and that ``it would be presumptuous of me to rule out foul play.″

Six people were taken to a hospital Thursday night with severe breathing problems, bluish pallors and mental confusion. The building was evacuated, and hazardous materials workers and anti-terrorist agents were deployed.

Mayor John Spencer, who had mentioned the possibility of cyanide poisoning, said Yonkers was ``back to normalcy″ Friday.

Air tests in the building and at the hospital found no airborne contamination. When police learned that people who had not eaten did not get sick, the investigation focused on food.

Cola said the victims, identified only as adults of Egyptian heritage, were at a dinner party that included processed food from Egypt.

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