Philippines: Several dead, 300 treated after drinking coconut wine

At least 11 people have been killed and more than 300 treated in hospital after drinking coconut wine in the Philippines, including some who were celebrating at a Christmas party, health and local authorities said on Monday (Dec 23).
December 24, 2019 | 11:29
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philippines several dead 300 treated after drinking coconut wine
Hundreds of people have been taken to hospital after drinking the coconut wine. (Photo: AFP/Ted Aljibe)

The poisoning occurred in Laguna and Quezon, two provinces south of Manila, and all had consumed lambanog, a drink popular in provinces and consumed widely during holidays and celebrations.

Many were admitted to hospitals on the urging of mayor Vener Munoz in Rizal, Laguna, where the deaths occurred between Thursday and Sunday.

Two people who had been in critical condition were improving, he told local radio. The coconut wine that was consumed had been made in his town, he added.

Fred Rey, the owner of the distillery that is believed to have produced the tainted drink, turned himself over to authorities Monday, local news outlet ABS-CBN reported. However, Rey was not arrested because his shop was legally operated, Rizal police chief Capt. Lindley Tibuc told the outlet.

Blood tests and samples of leftover lambanog would be collected and analysed on Monday, the Department of Health said.

"All had a sad history of lambanog ingestion," the department said, referring to those poisoned.

"Some bought for leisure drinking and birthday party, while others were donated by local officials during their Christmas party."

While it’s still unclear what exactly made the hundreds of people fall ill, Reuters reported that homebrew versions of lambanog are often made with dangerous additives like methanol, a toxic alcohol. The country's Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has previously warned about the dangerous and prohibited use of methanol as an additive in home brews.

A year ago, the FDA and police were deployed to locate and confiscate unregistered lambanog that was being openly sold to the public, and threatened to prosecute sellers.

Twenty-one people died after consuming lambanog last year, media reported./.

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