The owner of a snack shop has confessed to spreading rat poison over breakfast food from a rival shop that killed 38 people in the eastern Chinese city of Nanjing, according to state media.
The man was caught early Sunday aboard a train in Zhengzhou, a city around 370 miles northwest of Nanjing, China Central Television said in its main evening broadcast yesterday.
The poisonings on Saturday, traced to a snack shop where schoolchildren and others had bought breakfast, sickened as many as 300 people, according to other state media.
Chen Zhengping, the owner of a rival snack shop, confessed to spreading the poison, according to the official Xinhua News Agency. CCTV said he acted “out of resentment over a business dispute”.
The Hong Kong newspaper Wen Wei Po, which has close ties to Chinese authorities, said Chen was the cousin of the snack shop owner and was jealous at his relative’s success.
Authorities have tightly controlled information about the poisonings, and until Tuesday had refused to release a death toll. Six survivors were in intensive care and some 200 others had been treated, CCTV and Xinhua reported.
An earlier report on the Web site of the Communist Party newspaper People’s Daily gave a higher death toll, saying 49 people were killed.
Citing unidentified sources, it said most were schoolchildren and two were soldiers from a nearby military installation.
China has suffered poisoning attacks in the past blamed on business rivalries or people with grudges.
In July, a noodle shop owner was arrested on charges that he poisoned customers at a rival business by putting rat poison in its soup.
That incident in the southern region of Guangxi sickened 57 people, but no deaths were reported.
Tests on the Nanjing poison have identified it as a brand of rat poison called Dushuqiang, which has been banned for sale in China since the mid-1990s, according to an official of the Nanjing Agriculture and Forestry Bureau.
The poison, whose name translates as “Super-Strong Rat Poisoner”, is still widely available in rural areas from illegal producers, said the official.