Number of Caraga poisoning victims rises to almost 2,000

ABS-CBN News

Posted at Jul 12 2015 12:31 PM | Updated as of Jul 13 2015 07:50 PM

MANILA – (UPDATED) The number of those affected by the food poisoning outbreak in the Caraga region has risen to almost 2,000, the Department of Health (DOH) said.

Speaking on DZMM on Sunday morning, DOH-Caraga Regional Director Dr. Jose Llacuna said a total of 1,909 cases affected by the food poisoning in the region have been recorded, based on data gathered at 11 p.m. Saturday.

Out of the 1,909 cases, only 111 remain confined in hospitals. Their common complaints include stomach cramps, diarrhea, vomiting and headaches.

Despite this, Llacuna said they are no longer expecting more cases following the apprehension of nine men and women who supposedly sold the durian candies to the children.

“We are waiting for developments but the trend is we are getting lesser cases kasi the patients were already discharged,” he said.

Llacuna also said there were also no reported deaths or serious complications after the children fell ill.

As of writing, police are still investigating whether the sweets were expired or were deliberately laced with poison.

"The suspects had a plan to sell only to school children. They went around nine towns the whole day selling candies," Surigao del Sur governor Johnny Pimentel said, adding that the suspects denied to police that they meant to poison the children.

Pimentel said police are still trying to establish why the suspects travelled some 300 kilometers from their home province to sell the sweets.

The southeastern region is the country's main producer of durian and the foul-smelling fruit is transformed into a myriad of food products including confectionery, ice cream and coffee.

Poor enforcement of food safety regulations has been blamed for past cases of food poisoning in the Philippines.

Meanwhile, in a radio interview Sunday, Communications Secretary Herminio Coloma said the provincial government of Surigao del Sur has ordered the inspection of all food manufacturers in the province.

He likewise assured that the Office of Civil Defense and Regional Disaster Risk Reduction Management Council are already investigating the incident.

Coloma said the government is strictly enforcing the Food Safety Act of 2013, which ensures the safety of food in the manufacturing, packaging, storage and distribution stages. – with reports from Agence France Presse