Food poisoning at Imelda Marcos’ party likely due to poor handling – DOH

Sofia Tomacruz
Food poisoning at Imelda Marcos’ party likely due to poor handling – DOH
(3rd UPDATE) 'Suspect cases strongly point out to a toxin causing it,' derived from staph bacteria, says Health Secretary Francisco Duque III

MANILA, Philippines (3rd UPDATE) – Unsanitary handling and poor storage of food likely caused the food poisoning of hundreds who attended the 90th birthday celebration of former first lady Imelda Marcos in Pasig City, Health Secretary Francisco Duque III said on Wednesday, July 3.

In an interview with reporters, Duque said some 261 patients were rushed to nearby hospitals as of 3:40 pm on Wednesday. Of this number, at least two were severely hydrated.

“Suspect cases strongly point out to a toxin causing it, derived from the bacteria Staphylococcus aureaus (staph),” he said.

Staph food poisoning happens when people carrying staph bacteria don’t wash their hands before handling food, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention .

Duque said those who suffered from food poisoning received packed meals of chicken adobo, boiled egg, and rice. The patients said both egg and the rice tasted as though they were spoiled.

Some 3 hours after eating, the patients experienced bouts of vomiting.

Duque said epidemiological tests were being conducted on the food, and that the findings were expected in two to 3 days. Some 2,500 food packs were distributed to people at the celebration that morning, he added.

The health chief also urged those who attended Marcos’ celebration to seek immediate medical attention at the onset of signs and symptoms such as nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, stomach cramps, weakness, fever, and chills.

Gov’t hospitals ready

The health chief said government hospitals were ready to handle the cases.

“This is quite a huge number but suffice it to say the government hospitals are fully equipped to deal with these cases and we have no problems in terms of supplies,” Duque said.

Patients were brought to the following hospitals:

  • Medical City – 100
  • Rizal Medical Center – 43
  • Victor Potenciano Hospital – 23
  • Pasig City General Hospital – 40
  • Cardinal Santos – 20
  • Tricity Medical – 20
  • Mandaluyong Medical Center – 5
  • Ospital ng Makati – 4
  • Amang Rodriguez – 6

Unsanitary food preparation

According to Rizal Medical Center medical specialist Dr Primo Valenzuela, Staph food poisoning can be caused by unsanitary handling and incorrect storage of food served.

Puwede ‘yung napreprare hindi malinis ‘yung kamay niya. Pwedeng dumami nagproduce ng toxin, so ‘yung toxin na iyon nagsanhi ng mga symptoms,” he said.

(It’s possible that the one who prepared the food did not wash his or her hands. It’s possible the toxin produced multiplied, so the toxin caused the symptoms.)

Kung maghahanda ka ng pagkain in advance, kailangan itago mo sa isang lugar na tama yung temperatura. So kung hundi siya naitago or kinain kaagad, dapat nakatago siya sa isang ref or kwarto na tama yung temperatura otherwise dadami ‘yung bacteria,” he added.  

(If you prepare food in advance, you have to keep it in the right place, at the right temprature. So if it’s not stored properly and not consumed immediately, it should be kept in a refrigerator at the right temperature, otherwise the bacteria will multiply.) 

According to the CDC, “if food is contaminated with staph, the bacteria can multiply in the food and produce toxins that can make people ill.” It said cooking kills staph bacteria “but the toxins are not destroyed and will still be able to cause illness.” 

It also said that “food contaminated with staph toxin may not smell bad or look spoiled.” 

In 2015, staph food poisoning downed hundreds  6 towns and a city in Surigao del Sur, caused by contaminated durian candy– Rappler.com

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Sofia Tomacruz

Sofia Tomacruz covers defense and foreign affairs. Follow her on Twitter via @sofiatomacruz.