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Lai Châu poisoning: Methanol level toxically thousands times higher

Update: February, 16/2017 - 17:42
Victims of the food poisoning in Lai Châu. — Photo
Viet Nam News

HÀ NỘI  Initial tests show that the methanol content in the alcohol consumed in Lai Châu Province, which resulted in mass poisoning and claimed seven lives, was thousands of times higher than permitted.

Officials from the health ministry’s food safety department on Wednesday announced that the methanol content of the three samples collected by the Lai Châu food safety sub-department all had more than 100 mg per litre of absolute alcohol, which is the permissible level. The lowest methanol content of the beverage samples in question was 970 mg per litre of absolute alcohol, according to test results delivered by the National Institute for Food Control. The other two samples had the methanol content reach up to 475,000 and 556,000 mg, respectively 4,750 and 5,560 times above the standard amount.

Last weekend saw this year’s largest fatal alcohol poisoning in the country. The incident took place in Tà Chải Village, where seven people died; 31 are still being treated in Lai Châu General Hospital and the Phong Thổ District health centre.

Most alcoholic beverages have low levels of methanol, which causes no harm. However, high levels of methanol can lead to neurotoxicity and organ failure.

Colonel Bùi Thanh Phong, Vice Director of Lai Châu police, said officials are working hard to complete forensic autopsies so that health authorities can release the final report on the cause of the deaths.

Three of the victims, though they have survived the critical stage, are still undergoing dialysis and will be monitored closely, said Lai Châu People’s Committee Vice Chairman Tống Thanh Hải.

Việt Nam Red Cross today said that they would provide financial relief of VNĐ5 million (US$222) to every family of the deceased, and VNĐ2 million each to those under treatment. 

The first death was that of a 60-year-old man, Phu Vần Lèng, a resident of Ma Ly Chải Commune. After a house party on February 10, he complained of headache, following which he started throwing up. He died later that night.

His family held a three-day funeral, from February 11 to 13, where food and alcohol were served to the whole village as per tradition. By Monday evening, dozens of people who had attended the funeral complained of headache and nausea. Two villagers died at home, one died while working in the field, two died in hospital and one was pronounced dead on arrival at the hospital.

81 suffer from food poisoning in Hà Giang

At least 81 people have been hospitalised for food poisoning in Hà Giang Province, authorities said on Wednesday.

Nguyễn Như Chưởng, head of municipal Food Safety Sub-Department, said that those admitted had attended a wedding party in Hoàng Su Phì District’s Đản Ván Commune on Monday.

People have been admitted to the district hospital and the communal health station with symptoms of dizziness, nausea and stomach ache.

“The cause (of the incident) is yet to be determined,” said Hoàng Su Phì District’s Party Secretary Hoàng Hải Lý. “What we know so far is that all victims ate at a wedding party thrown by a family in the village.”

The chicken, pork and vegetables used were grown by the family itself, and the alcohol was also homemade, Lý said. “Only the mushroom had been bought from China. It might have had preservatives or may have been spoiled.”

Hà Giang’s health department is running tests to identify the source of food poisoning.  VNS




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