Officials from the Consumer Protection, Competition and Fraud Repression Directorate-General (CCF) for Prey Veng province are working with the local authorities to investigate cases of suspected wine poisoning which caused the deaths of at least four people.
“It is suspected that they died from alcohol poisoning because their relatives claimed that they had consumed too much traditional medicinal wine or rice wine before dying,” CCF branch manager Uth Sopheap told The Post on June 21.
He said the incident happened in Mesar Brachan commune’s Yot village of Prey Veng province’s Pea Reang district on June 19. The four victims were aged 31 to 53.
CCF officials and the local authorities have collected 11 wine samples from the location and sent them to the CCF’s laboratory in Phnom Penh for testing.
CCF director-general Phan Oun told The Post that the preliminary laboratory test results showed that some of the 11 samples contained between six and 7.5 per cent methanol, which is a toxic level.
“On June 20, our team worked until 8pm to inspect the wine samples. We found that the wines contained too much methanol – six to 7.5 per cent – which could cause those drinking them to die,” he said.
Local authorities said rapid tests were undertaken by provincial health departments to see if the deceased had contracted Covid-19, but the results showed that all of the victims were negative for the virus.
Following the incident, Pea Reang district authorities decided to ban the production, export, import and distribution of all rice wines and herbal wine products throughout the district, especially in Mesar Brachan commune, according to district police chief Long Bunthoeun.
“At this time, our law enforcement forces are cooperating with specialised officers to investigate this case. The victim’s family did not reveal the identity of the source where victim got the wine from,” he said, adding that no other villagers have currently fallen ill with the symptoms of nausea, dizziness, anxiety, drowsiness, soft hands and feet and fatigue, as the Ministry of Health had explained.
The health ministry said recently that in the first quarter of this year, 31 people died due to high levels of methanol in rice wine and herbal wines in Kandal, Kampot and Pursat.
Should the suspected cause of death be confirmed as the definite cause of death in these cases, then the number of deaths from wine poising this year would jump to 35.