‘Poisonous’ durian candy: 1,350 sick, 12 arrested
TAGUM CITY – Police authorities in Surigao del Sur have so far arrested 12 people, who reportedly sold durian candies that downed over 1,300 people in the said province – mostly children – on Friday.
As this developed, the supposed manufacturer of the candies, Davao City-based Wendy’s, issued a statement disowning the products even as Davao City Acting Mayor Paolo Duterte ordered a probe of where the poisonous sweets had come from.
Supt. Martin Gamba, spokesperson of the Caraga police, said the arrests were made in the towns of Cagwait, Tago and Tagbina and in the city of Tandag when authorities conducted pursuit operations against ambulant vendors said to be responsible for the proliferation of the candies.
He said those initially arrested during the pursuit operations were Junnil Martinez, 30; John Oben, 36; and Joel Paja, all of Calinan, Davao City.
Gamba said during follow up operations, elements of the Tago police station arrested Richard Rivera Jr., 28; and Martinez Bocaycay, 19; both residents of Calinan. A white Mitsubishi L-300 FB Deluxe with license plates MEM366 and registered under the name of Pastor Apollo C. Quiboloy of the Kingdom of Jesus Christ based in Davao was also seized.
The other arrested suspects were Genelyn Pasa, 26, of Bucana, Davao City; and Henry Amoguis, 21, of Valencia City, Bukidnon, who were caught in the act of selling Wendy’s durian, mango and mangosteen candies at the premises of the Special Education Elementary School in Tandag City.
He did not identify the rest of the arrested suspects, who were now under custody of various police units in the province.
“I already issued a memorandum to all chiefs of police, mayors and school principals to stay vigilant against (unscrupulous ambulant vendors),” Surigao del Sur Gov. Johnny Pimentel told the Inquirer by phone.
He said so far, 1350 persons had suffered nausea, vomiting and abdominal cramps from consuming the candies tainted with still unidentified contaminant.
But Pimentel said so far, no one had died from ingesting the contaminated candies.
Gamba said the confiscated items had been turned over to the Department of Health in Tandag for examination while charges of physical injury in relation to violation of Republic Act 10611 or Food Safety Act; and other charges were being readied against the arrested suspects.
The Surigao del Sur food poisoning incident came after about 40 pupils in Kidapawan City also complained of nausea and abdominal pains after consuming durian candies, which were labeled Wendy’s, on Thursday.
As in the Surigao del Sur case, the candies were sold by ambulant vendors, according to authorities there.
Dr. Gerry Reyes, Kidapawan City Hospital resident physician, said other victims had suffered vomiting.
“The cases of the food poisoning were very mild but still, we considered them as food poisoning since the symptoms such as abdominal pain and nausea were there,” Reyes said.
In a statement, Wendy’s said the candies were probably made to look like it manufactured them.
The candy manufacturer said based on information that reached them, the tainted candies sold to the victims came in packs of 10.
“Our products are being sold at bags of 100 only,” Wendy’s said.
Amid the candy manufacturer’s disowning of the tainted candies, Duterte ordered an urgent investigation into the incidents.
Duterte also ordered the City Health Office to send sanitary inspectors to various durian candy manufacturers in the city, even as he said it was not conclusive that the tainted products came from Davao City.
“We are doing everything to get to the bottom of this,” he said, adding that the issue was urgent because it involved public interest. With reports from Williamor Magbanua and Allan Nawal
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