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Did you know that the village of Pont-Saint-Esprit was involved in a mass poisoning in 1951? More than 250 people were marked by acute psychotic episodes and various physical symptoms. 50 persons were interned in asylums and four were dead. The foodborne illness, which affected other parts of France but were the most serious in Pont-Saint-Esprit, were traced to "cursed bread" (pain maudit). The causes of the outbreak have never been identified with certainty but several explanations have been proposed. In 1982, a French researcher pointed to Aspergillus fumigatus, a mycotoxin produced in grain silos, as a potential culprit. In 2008, historian Steven Kaplan argues that the poisoning might have been caused by nitrogen trichloride used to artificially (and illegally) bleach flour. Journalist Hank P. Albarelli Jr alleges in hist book A Terrible Mistake that the CIA tested the use of LSD on the population of Pont-Saint-Esprit as part of its MKULTRA biological weapons program and that Frank Olson's involvement in and knowledge of the operation is linked to his suspicious death. Albarelli says he has found a top secret report issued in 1949 by the research director of the Edgewood Arsenal, where many US government LSD experiments were carried out, which states that the army should do everything possible to launch "field experiments" using the drug. According to Albarelli's thesis, the Pont-Saint-Esprit incident was intended as a precursor to a similar experiment scheduled to take place in the New York City subway system.



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