One man died and another three fell ill after eating worms they had foraged from a decaying palm tree in their village’s paddy fields in Chamroeun commune of Preah Vihear province’s Sangkum Thmei district.
District police chief Chuon Moeun said all four are residents of the commune’s Sen Kong village.
Moeun told The Post that on the morning of January 24, Mao Lean, 28, and his three neighbours – Poy Vin, 28; Dim Sophea, 15; and Prach Pisey, 9 – had used an axe to cut down a decaying palm tree in the middle of the paddy to catch worms to eat.
Citing Vin’s description of the incident, Moeun said the four had taken about 1kg of the worms from the decaying palm tree. They then deep-fried the worms for dinner after seasoning them with salt.
Approximately two hours later they all began to feel dizzy and suffer from headaches, stomach-aches and diarrhoea.
In an attempt to get rid of the symptoms, they immediately made lemon tea mixed with honey and drank it except for Lean, who refused the drink and went to sleep.
At around midnight, Lean awoke with a severe stomach-ache and diarrhoea. His family tried to bring him to Sangkum Thmei District Referral Hospital but he died en-route.
“According to the doctors’ forensic examination and statements by the victim’s friends and relatives, Lean’s death was caused by eating too many worms, resulting in poisoning,” Moeun said.
Sen Kong village chief Som Sourth told The Post that the worms are considered to be a delicacy, especially those found in palm and coconut trees, and he had never heard of them being harmful to one’s health.
Sourth said, however, that there are worms covered in hairs with dark skin that can be poisonous if too many are eaten and those worms are often found in decomposing wood or piles of rubbish.
“I like to eat the worms from palm and coconut trees. They are delicious and provide almost as much energy as beef. Sometimes I eat them raw and it has never caused me any health problems,” he said.
Sourth said Lean’s death might be due to his having eaten some of the poisonous worms on accident if both were present in the decaying tree and were carelessly mixed with the edible worms.
According to a research paper by the National Institute of Nutrition of India published in June 2000, palm worms are widely considered to be edible by food experts and nutritionists and are a good source of protein, carbohydrates, vitamin A and vitamin E. No mention is made of any poisoning dangers.