MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) – The number of people who have fallen ill after eating a batch of "poisoned" durian candies in Mindanao has risen to nearly 2,000, the health department said on Monday, July 13.
At least 1,925 people in the Caraga region – most of them schoolchildren – were sick after eating the fruit-flavored candy, said Department of Health (DOH) spokesman Lyndon Lee Suy. Sixty-six are under observation in hospitals.
The number of people affected jumped by 600 from those initially reported when hospitals began treating patients on Friday.
The victims complained of stomach cramps, diarrhea, vomiting, and headaches after consuming the durian-, mango- and mangosteen-flavored treats that were sold by vendors outside schools.
The government's Food and Drug Administration (FDA) said it was looking into possible contamination involving staphylococcus, salmonella or E. coli bacteria, with test results available on Wednesday, July 15, at the earliest.
The FDA is investigating two candy manufacturing facilities in Davao City as possible sources of the durian candies that poisoned 1,925 people – mostly students in the Caraga region last week.
Maria Lourdes Santiago, acting deputy general director of the FDA said on Monday, July 13, they are looking into the possibility that the products were mishandled during repacking before they were sold in areas outside Davao City.
She said they have traced the manufacturers “based on the labels” of the food products. One of the candy manufacturers was licensed under the FDA, while the other “was not in our database.”
Earlier reports pinpointed Wendy’s Durian Candies as one of the manufacturers that produced the candies that were distributed in Surigao del Sur, Surigao del Norte, and Agusan del Sur.
Janet Aquino, owner of Wendy’s Durian candies, admitted her company made the candies but pointed to a possible repacking of her products as the cause of the food poisoning.
The Davao City government has ordered the suspension of the candy manufacturer’s business permit until the company can provide clearance from FDA.
Santiago did not divulge the brand of the other candy manufacturer the FDA is investigating because they want to be “responsible in their announcements” and “fair to the parties involved.”
As investigations are still progressing, DOH spokesperson Dr Lyndon Lee Suy said it is still too early to pinpoint the actual cause for the food poisoning.
“Please note that these are just all allegations, we are not trying to pinpoint any specific products pending the investigation,” Suy said. – with reports from Vincent Bascos and Agence France-Presse/Rappler.com