By Betheena Unite
An investigation into the poisoning cases allegedly caused by ingestion of “lambanog” (coconut wine) in Laguna was launched Monday by the Department of Health (DOH).
Data from the Health department showed that 265 individuals from Rizal, Laguna had fallen ill and were brought to various hospitals over the weekend after drinking lambanog. Eleven were already confirmed dead, according to local police.
Of the 265 individuals, 66 were brought to the Philippine General Hospital for treatment and observation. Forty-nine of them are male between 13 to 65 years old. All had a history of lambanog ingestion between Dec. 19 to 22, the agency said.
Of the rest, 62 individuals were brought to East Avenue Medical Center, 82 were taken to Rizal Medical Center, 13 to Quirino Memorial Medical Center, and 42 to Batangas Medical Center.
“DOH is on top of this. We are investigating the alleged lambanog poisoning. Meanwhile, I urge everyone to avoid drinking alcoholic drinks this holiday season. Let us stay sober as we celebrate the festivities with our families and loved ones,” Health Secretary Francisco Duque III said in a statement.
“Lambanog poisoning is caused by residual methanol, which in high levels becomes highly toxic for humans. Methanol is a naturally occurring substance present during the distilling process, that should be separated and removed thereafter,” Duque explained.
Undersecretary Eric Domingo, on the other hand, said that while methanol was present in both samples, they have yet to determine the link between the lambanog poisoning incidents in Laguna and Quezon.
As of Monday evening, two have died and six have been hospitalized in Candelaria, Quezon after drinking lambanog.
“Wala naman. Mukhang magkaiba naman saka magkaibang lugar yung production. Ang pagkakapareho lang, pareho silang unregistered, mga hindi sila factory na mga na-inspect ng FDA (Food and Drug Administration) at yung mga produkto nila walang certificate of product registration,” Domingo said.
(There’s no link. It looks like the wines were produced in different places. Their only similarity is that they are both unregistered, their factories were not inspected by FDA, and their products do not have certificates of product registration.)
The undersecretary also said samples of lambanog are still undergoing clinical testing but he noted that the samples from the two different provinces are similar.
“Parehong-pareho na methanol ang poisoning na ating pinaghihinalaan ngayon. Ito ‘yung working impression natin na ginagamit para pag-manage ng mga pasyente (We are suspecting that methanol is the poisoning element. This is our working impression right now to manage the patients),” Domingo added.
The FDA has repeatedly issued warnings to lambanog brewers over high methanol content and advised the public to exercise extreme caution in purchasing and consuming the alcohol beverage, and to buy only those brands registered with FDA.
FDA regulatory inspectors have been deployed to Rizal, Laguna to collect samples and investigate the alleged poisoning incident. DOH, on the other hand, has assigned teams to the different health facilities to which affected individuals were referred.