Ministry warns of food poisoning over New Year

The Ministry of Health has called on the people to take 11 preventive measures to protect themselves from food or alcohol poisoning during the Khmer New Year celebration. Those who felt unwell should immediately seek medical treatment, it said.

On Friday, the ministry said hundreds of people had suffered food poisoning in provincial communities in the first three months of this year, with some losing their lives.

The minister, Mam Bun Heng, reminded people to be careful about food that might not be fit for consumption.

“I strongly advise people to be more careful about health problems that may occur during the Khmer New Year festival in conjunction with the current hot weather. Be especially careful regarding food preparation and improper storage, in order to avoid stomach aches, vomiting and diarrhoea.”

“These can be caused by eating unhealthy food or by alcohol poisoning from drinks that are not produced in a safe way,” he said.

Bun Heng said in order to avoid food poisoning, people should protect themselves by following an 11-point plan.

Drink clean and safe water, he said, and secondly, make sure people wash their hands with soap before and during food preparation, before eating and after going to the toilet.

Thirdly, Bun Heng said, food should be covered to keep flies away. He also advised people to check sweet and sour food. His fifth warning was to wash fruit and vegetables with clean water.

He reminded people to clean cooking utensils properly and, further, to make sure food is not undercooked, especially meat, eggs and seafood.

Point number eight was to keep raw and cooked food separately, while the ninth was not to store food unrefrigerated for more than two hours.

Bun Heng advised, as the 10th preventive step, that food should not be kept for several days, even at cool temperatures. Lastly, he reminded people not to consume food beyond its expiry date.

Should anyone show symptoms of food or alcohol poisoning, such as headaches, coughing, vomiting, dizziness, fainting, convulsions or difficulty breathing, he said, they should seek medical treatment immediately at a nearby health centre or hospital.

The ministry said from 2018 until early March, there had been 30 cases of food or alcohol poisoning resulting in 1,304 people becoming sick and 27 dying.

Kratie provincial health department director Chhneang Sovatha said the latest major case of food poisoning occurred in October, affecting 78 people and claiming five lives.

He told Sky Radio on Sunday that his department met local authorities and alcohol producers in January to educate them about proper production and distribution practices, and also about food safety.

“First, we told them not to mix anything with alcoholic drinks to make them stronger and never to believe that they are master rice winemakers. We told them to produce it properly or they will be punished.”

“Secondly, we explained that people should not drink alcohol from unknown sources because it can be dangerous, and we detailed what had happened in the past to make it clear,” Sovatha said.