Contamination eyed in Lake Sebu food poisoning

GENERAL SANTOS CITY (MindaNews/25 July) – Health authorities in South Cotabato province are looking at possible insecticide contamination as behind the massive food poisoning in a remote village in Lake Sebu town last week that triggered a gastroenteritis outbreak.

Dr. Rogelio Aturdido Jr., South Cotabato provincial health officer, said they sent samples of the suspected contaminated carabao meat Monday to the Food and Drug Administration to properly determine the possible contaminants that downed 142 residents of Sitio Tinugas in Barangay Ned in Lake Sebu since last week.

He said they were waiting for the results of the laboratory tests by the Cotabato Regional Medical Center on the blood samples that were taken from some of the food poisoning victims last Friday.

“It would take at least a week for the all the tests to be fully completed. In the meantime, we sustained the remedial treatment on the affected residents to prevent further complications,” Aturdido said.

Fifty residents of Sitio Tinugas in Barangay Ned were initially reported last Friday to have fallen ill due to a suspected food poisoning of contaminated carabao meat, but local officials said the
number of affected residents, who were mostly children, already rose to 142.

No casualties were reported but 12 residents were brought to the South Cotabato Provincial Hospital in Koronadal City last Thursday for further treatment.

As of Monday, Aturdido said only five of the patients remained confined at the provincial hospital but their condition has already stabilized.

Lake Sebu Mayor Antonio Fungan, who sent a medical team from the Lake Sebu municipal health office to the area late last Thursday, said their evaluation showed that the carabao meat earlier consumed by the affected residents was possibly contaminated by a certain insecticide.

Based on accounts by some of the victims, they reportedly started to fall ill after consuming the cooked meat of a carabao that was slaughtered by a local resident on July 17.

The owner of the carabao reportedly decided to slaughter the farm animal after it suddenly became weak due to unknown reasons.

Several residents who helped slaughter the carabao earlier said the animal appeared to have eaten a mosquito net, which health personnel suspected was one of the chemically-treated anti-malaria nets earlier distributed by the provincial government of South Cotabato in the area.

Last year, the provincial government distributed some 5,000 treated mosquito nets in Lake Sebu, which was among the areas in the province that was found endemic to malaria.

Meantime, South Cotabato veterinarian Dr. Lorna Lamorena said they sent a team to Barangay Ned early Monday to conduct a surveillance and possible testing on some of the farm animals within the affected area.

“We want to check whether there were other farm animals that were also affected by the suspected contamination,” she said.

Lamorena urged residents of Barangay Ned and other areas of the province to refrain from buying meat and meat products of animals that were not slaughtered in government-certified abattoirs.

She advised owners of farm animals that showed symptoms of certain illnesses to first consult their office to make sure whether they are still safe for human consumption or not. (Allen V. Estabillo/MindaNews)