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Malaysia

Methanol poisoning: 10 new cases, Negri Sembilan affected, says Health Ministry

PETALING JAYA: A total of 86 methanol poisoning cases has been reported to the Health Ministry from its treatment facilities from Sept 15 till noon on Saturday (Sept 22).

The cases are also spreading, with Negri Sembilan emerging as the fourth state to be affected, with one methanol poisoning case reported on Saturday (Sept 22), Health Director-General Datuk Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah said in a statement this evening.

Overall, Dr Noor Hisham said 10 new cases have been reported, with seven in Selangor, and one each in Kuala Lumpur, Perak and Negri Sembilan.

These additional cases bring the total of poisoning cases to 62 in Selangor, 16 in Kuala Lumpur, seven in Perak, and one for Negri Sembilan.

16 patients are stable and have been discharged, whilst another 41 are still being treated in 11 hospitals in the affected states. 16 of the 41 are in critical condition.

According to Dr Noor Hisham, the methanol poisonings by nationalities are: Bangladesh (10 cases, with one death); India (three cases, one death); Myanmar (21 cases, 10 deaths); Nepal (31 cases, 6 deaths); Indonesia (one case, one alive); Malaysia (16 cases, seven deaths), unknown nationality (four deaths).

The director-general said the Health Ministry, through its Public Health and Food Safety and Quality divisions, are analysing product samples.

"The suspect alcoholic drinks brands are Grand Royal Whisky, Mandalay Whisky, Joker Whisky and the Kingfisher and Volcano beer brands," Dr Noor Hisham stated.

Analysis results as of now, confirmed that samples of the Grand Royal and Mandalay Whiskies contained methanol, at 169,300 ppm (parts per million), or 16.93%; and 173, 600 ppm, or 17.36% respectively, in violation of the Food Act 1983.

The World Health Organisation states that overconsumption or overexposure to methanol can permanently damage the human nervous system and sight.

Exposure to methanol at just 300 to 1,000 ppm (0.03 to 0.1%) can result in coma and death.

In addition, the products did not follow labelling requirements under the Food Regulations 1985, under the Food Act, such as the absenceof the name and address of the manufacturer, importer or agent.

Dr Noor Hisham said the ministry is taking enforcement action on the alcoholic drink brands involved, and other beverage brands which violated the above legal provisions.

"As of Sept 22, up to 402 premises selling alcohol have been inspected, and 1,471 bottles of alcohol of various brands, including those mentioned above which violate the Food Act and Food Regulations, have been confiscated," he said.

Dr Noor Hisham said that according to Section 13 of the Food Act, any person preparing or selling any food which has any substance which is poisonous or harmful to health commits an offence.

The punishment, and upon conviction, is a fine up to RM100,000 a jail term up to 10 years, or both.

He added that the Health Ministry will continue cooperating with the embassies and other ministries and government agencies, including the United Nations High Commissioner to continue monitoring and keeping control of the incident.

Those who experience symptoms of methanol poisoning – stomach ache, nausea, headaches, blurry vision – within five days of consuming alcoholic drinks, should seek treatment at any clinic or hospital, he advised.

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