A Banteay Meanchey provincial health official yesterday said two people died and more than 100 are being treated in hospital after they were poisoned by food they ate over the weekend at a drug rehabilitation centre.
Keo Sopheaktra, director of the provincial health department, said the poisoning occurred at the Phnom Bak New Life Centre, a rehabilitation centre for recovering drug addicts.
“Two people died, one on Saturday and another on Sunday,” Mr Sopheaktra said. “Their bodies were sent to the Cambodia-Japan Friendship Hospital.”
It is unclear what caused the poisoning, but a total of 264 people experienced symptoms of vomiting, diarrhoea, breathing difficulty and dizziness after consuming cucumbers on Saturday.
He said about 120 people are still being treated in hospital.
“Now only 124 people are being treated in Serei Soaphaon Referral Hospital and Cambodia-Japan Friendship Hospital,” Mr Sopheaktra said.
He then called on vegetable sellers not to spray preservative chemicals on their produce.
“I sent a message telling all vegetable sellers to not spray chemicals on their vegetables to keep them fresh longer,” Mr Sopheaktra said. “Buyers please wash your vegetables with permanganate water before eating.”
Major General Ath Khem, provincial police chief, said those who were poisoned were young people.
“They were sent to a referral hospital in Serei Soaphoan city and the Cambodia-Japan Friendship Hospital in Banteay Meanchey province,” Maj Gen Khem said. “Others are being treated at the centre.”
He said about 800 people stay at the rehab centre, but only 200 were affected.
Provincial Governor Um Reatrey said doctors informed him the victims are getting better.
The Health Ministry in February reported 13 cases of food poisoning in 2018, a decrease of 15 when compared to 2017.
Aing Hoksrun, chief of the ministry’s food safety office, at the time said cases of food poisoning are often caused by viruses and toxic chemicals.
He said to prevent food poisoning, the ministry has set guidelines instructing cooks to keep kitchens clean, hands washed, raw food separated, water clean and temperatures appropriate.
“Food poisoning is caused by viruses and toxic chemicals,” Mr Hoksrun said. “And do not forget food poisoning preventive measures.”