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Holiday festivities: Ministry says to check for food safety

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People place food into bowls as they pray during the Pchum Ben festival (Festival of Death) at a pagoda last week in Phnom Penh. Tang Chhin Sothy/AFP

Holiday festivities: Ministry says to check for food safety

The Ministry of Health issued a warning to the public to use extra caution when consuming food – and rice wine – during the upcoming Pchum Ben holiday starting next week.

“Everyone, from the food consumers to the food server, plays an important role in promoting food safety,” Health Minister Mam Bun Heng said in the statement, released on Friday.

Food safety remains a major issue in Cambodia, and reports of rice wine poisoning are also common due to unscrupulous brewers mixing in toxic methanol to increase the alcohol content.

Last year, 15 people in Kampong Chhnang province died after drinking toxic rice wine.

Incidents of mass food poisoning are also prevalent. In April, about 30 people were hospitalised in Battambang town after attending a Buddhist ceremony where they ate fried squid. And in January, roughly 200 people fell ill after eating lunches distributed at a ruling party election event in Pursat province’s Phnom Kravanh district.

In its announcement on Friday, the Health Ministry appealed to hosting festival activities to follow preventive measures such as cleaning ingredients thoroughly, cooking food all the way through, separating cooked and raw food, and washing hands before preparing food or after going to the bathroom.

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