Boy dies, four in coma after eating contaminated food

By Thuy Quynh, Phan Anh   June 22, 2022 | 12:23 am PT
Boy dies, four in coma after eating contaminated food
A person put their hands on their stomach. Illustration photo by Shutterstock
A nine-year-old boy has died of food poisoning and six others were hospitalized – four of them comatose and in critical condition – after consuming homemade corn cakes.

Doctors at the Bach Mai Hospital in Hanoi said Wednesday that a family in Meo Vac District, Ha Giang Province, had made a corn cake dish for four family members and three neighbors. The cakes were made on June 16, using flour leftover from June 9.

On June 17, the nine-year-old boy developed symptoms of dizziness, stomach-ache and nausea. He died at home. Six others who developed similar symptoms later were rushed to the Ha Giang General Hospital.

After initial diagnoses, four people – three three adults and a 20-month-old infant – were transferred to Hanoi's Bach Mai Hospital for further treatment.

Nguyen Trung Nguyen, director of the Poison Control Center at Bach Mai, said doctors found ochratoxins in the corn cakes, which might explain the patients' condition. Ochratoxins are a group of mycotoxins produced by certain types of fungus that are known to occur in foods like cereals, coffee and dried fruits.

All the patients have suffered severe liver damage and hepatic encephalopathy, Nguyen said, adding that their prospects were not good. They are currently under blood filtration and intensive care.

The corn cake the patients had is a dish made during certain festivals by the Mong people in Ha Giang.

Freshly made corn flour is safe, but flour that has been left outside for too long can get contaminated and cause food poisoning, doctors said.

"The family used a leftover batch to make the cakes, so they might have been contaminated with mold, making them toxic and causing food poisoning," Nguyen said.

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