FDA to test Mindanao durian candies for microbial contamination
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) said on Monday it has started testing samples of durian candies that poisoned more than 1,920 people, mostly children, in three provinces in the Caraga region on Friday, for possible microbial contamination.
At a press conference, FDA Acting Deputy Director General Ma. Lourdes Santiago said experts from the agency were initially looking for the presence of microorganisms in the candies such as staphylococcus aureus, salmonella and E. coli based on the symptoms experienced by the victims.
“These were the recommendations coming from the toxicologists from the field so [microbial analysis] will be the [focus] of our testing,” Santiago told reporters on Monday. “There will be some chemical testing that can be considered [later on],” she added.
Initial reports said that the victims suffered nausea, vomiting and abdominal cramps several hours after consuming the tainted candies. These manifestations highly indicated microbial contamination, said Santiago.
Health Undersecretary Nemesio Gako also disclosed that majority of the victims were aged 10 to 14 years old, of which 64 percent were girls. Most of them showed symptoms of food poisoning five hours following consumption of the candies.
“These information would also be the basis for the FDA’s assessment and analysis,” said Gako.
As of Monday, 1,925 people from Surigao del Sur, Surigao del Norte and Agusan del Sur have been reported to have fallen ill. At least 66 patients remained confined in various hospitals for observation as of Monday, said the Department of Health spokesperson, Dr. Lyndon Lee Suy.
“The patients either had bought or were given free durian candies from unknown vendors in different cities. The case was coordinated with the Philippine National Police to trace the possible source of the said candies,” said Lee Suy.
Santiago said results of the laboratory analysis might be out by Wednesday afternoon. Samples of the tainted durian candies were sent to the FDA laboratory in Davao City late Saturday, while tests were initiated the following day.
“Since we started with microbiological tests, it may take some time before we finish it,” she added.
Earlier reports indicated that one of the two manufacturers of the sweets did not have a license to operate, a must for food manufacturers. Initial investigation also revealed that the durian candies were repacked before they were sold.
Santiago explained that while food products produced mainly for a small community need not necessarily be registered with the FDA, all food makers must be licensed by the agency for them to operate.
Lee Suy added that the possible mishandling of the products during the repacking and the likelihood of the candies being sold beyond the expiry date were among the things being considered in the investigation.
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