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Tests on deceased in Taipei food poisoning case finds Bongkrekic acid

03/28/2024 11:05 PM
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Family members of one of the men who died in the suspected food poisoning case are in a New Taipei facility for an autopsy of the diseased on Thursday. CNA photo March 28, 2024
Family members of one of the men who died in the suspected food poisoning case are in a New Taipei facility for an autopsy of the diseased on Thursday. CNA photo March 28, 2024

Taipei, March 28 (CNA) Bongkrekic acid, a fatal toxin, was found in the blood of one of the deceased in the Taipei food poisoning outbreak after forensic examination, Deputy Health Minister Victor Wang (王必勝) said Thursday.

At a press conference on Thursday evening, Wang announced that the results of the forensic examination conducted by experts from National Taiwan University's Department of Forensic Medicine revealed the presence of a rare toxin, Bongkrekic acid, in the blood of one of the deceased, marking the first ever detection of the toxin in Taiwan.

Wang stated that it aligned with the conclusion of the expert panel held on Wednesday, but he reiterated that this is not the final conclusion, emphasizing that the authorities chose to reveal the results of the forensic examination because "the public is very concerned."

"The final conclusion will be made after a comprehensive assessment by prosecutors," he added.

As of 5:00 p.m. Thursday, 18 people had sought medical attention in the greater Taipei area and Tainan after eating at a branch of the Malaysian restaurant chain Polam Kopitiam in Taipei's Xinyi District, two of whom died on March 24 and March 27, according to information from the Ministry of Health and Welfare.

Chiang Chih-kang (right), a professor at the Graduate Institute of Toxicology at National Taiwan University's College of Medicine, speaks about Bongkrekic acid during a press conference hosted by Deputy Health Minister Victor Wang in Taipei Thursday evening. CNA photo March 28, 2024
Chiang Chih-kang (right), a professor at the Graduate Institute of Toxicology at National Taiwan University's College of Medicine, speaks about Bongkrekic acid during a press conference hosted by Deputy Health Minister Victor Wang in Taipei Thursday evening. CNA photo March 28, 2024

Chiang Chih-kang (姜至剛), a professor at the Graduate Institute of Toxicology at National Taiwan University's College of Medicine, said that Bongkrekic acid mainly affects the liver, kidneys, and brain, and death can occur within 20 hours after the onset of symptoms.

According to toxicologist Yen Tzung-Hai (顏宗海), Bongkrekic acid was first discovered in Indonesia, where several food poisoning cases occurred due to the consumption of a traditional coconut-fermented cake called Tempe bongkrek.

One milligram of Bongkrekic acid can be fatal, Yen said, adding that the toxin directly damages the mitochondria responsible for energy production in human cells, thus affecting cellular respiration.

Symptoms resembling acute gastroenteritis, such as nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea develop after the ingestion of food contaminated with Bongkrekic acid, with the possibility of multiple organ failure within one day and a mortality rate exceeding 40 percent, Yen said.

(By Sunny Lai)

Enditem/AW

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