Children poisoned by tainted cassava in the Philippines

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Wednesday, March 9, 2005

Food poisoning in the Philippines

Over 27 children are dead, and another 100 are hospitalized, after eating tainted cassava on the central Philippine island of Bohol, according to local officials. Francisca Doliente told The Associated Press that a friend who shared a portion of the cassava with her 9-year-old niece, Arve Tamor, was "gone...She died".

"It was during recess time. The children bought cassava," said Mabini Vice-Mayor Ester Tabigue.

"Several children were brought here vomiting and complaining of stomach aches," said Dr. Elpidio Bonito. He noted that seven children did not make it to the hospital before succumbing to the food poisoning.

At the Ubay L.G. Cotamura Community Hospital, Dr. Leta Cutamora confirmed 14 fatalities and 35 others under treatment.

Almost 50 students from the San Jose Elementary School were sent to two other hospitals. One of the sellers of the cassava, a middle-aged woman, was also sent to the hospital.

Cassava is a starchy delicacy made from a tropical plant. It is poisonous when raw, and must be prepared properly so it is not converted into cyanide by the human digestive system.

"Some said they took only two bites because it tasted bitter and the effects were felt five to 10 minutes later," said Dr. Harold Garcia, from the Garcia Memorial Provincial Hospital.

A sample of the cassava will be studied at local Crime Laboratory Group, to try and determine what caused the food poisoning. The cassava was deep-fried and caramelized.