As millions of people are preparing to embark in a mass exodus to celebrate the upcoming Khmer New Year with their families in their hometowns, the Health Ministry on Friday issued a statement appealing to the public to guard their health during celebrations.
The ministry said in the statement that despite previous efforts to inform the public of the importance of maintaining good health, poisonings from food and alcohol still occurred in some communities.
“Last year, there were 19 cases of food poisoning that affected 852 people, including 13 who died,” it said. “There were also 206 people who were poisoned after drinking wine, and 12 people died.”
“For the first three months of this year, six food poisoning cases resulted in 246 people being affected, including two who died,” the ministry added.
Health Minister Mam Bunheng in the statement said people should pay attention to their well-being, especially when temperatures are high.
“I announce to all the people to be highly careful when it comes to health problems that could occur during Khmer New Year,” Mr Bunheng said. “Temperatures are very high, which could affect food and beverages.”
He noted that food should be cleaned first before cooking in order to avoid stomachaches and diarrhoea. Mr Bunheng also told consumers to pay attention to labels when buying alcoholic beverages to avoid alcohol poisoning.
Mr Bunheng reiterated the ministry’s 11 food prep recommendations published last year, which included instructions on how to ensure hygiene.
“If you are experiencing symptoms of food poisoning, please go to the nearest health centre immediately,” he said.
Health Ministry spokesman Or Vandine said the ministry has paid close attention to encourage those who drink alcohol to consume it responsibly.
“The ministry is paying attention to this and the ministry is cooperating with its partners,” Ms Vandine said. “Drinking a little bit of wine is good, but if we drink a lot, then it could affect our health.”
“So exercise and do not consume sweet or salty, or fatty foods,” she added. “If we do this, we will be able to avoid diseases like diabetes and liver cancer.”
In January, the Health Ministry said food poisoning is caused by food products that are unclean, spoiled, or contain toxic chemicals.
Mr Bunheng at the time said the public must avoid eating food and drinking wine that did not meet safety standards.
In January, the Banteay Meanchey provincial health department investigated a case of food poisoning that left 140 school students hospitalised.
Vat Vong, director of the school, at the time said a South Korean group visited the school and entertained the students before giving out the rice packets, bottled water and sweets.
“When the students started vomiting and having diarrhoea, their parents and local authorities rushed them to hospital,” he said. “Luckily, no one died.”