A brew to a kill: FDA issues warning to lambanog drinkers

ABS-CBN News

Posted at Dec 07 2018 11:39 AM | Updated as of Dec 07 2018 12:18 PM

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LETHAL LAMBANOG: The Food and Drug Administration on Friday reminded consumers to check if the alcohol they want to buy has the agency's approval, especially during holiday season.

This, after at least 10 people in Laguna died of suspected poisoning reportedly caused by lambanog, a Filipino alcoholic drink made by distilling palm wine or "tuba." 

FDA Director General Nela Charade Puno said the lambanog drinks involved in the separate cases of suspected poisoning were not registered with the government. 

"Kapag ang produkto ninyo ay registered, may nakalagay sa label na food registration number," she told DZMM Teleradyo, adding that they can check the list of registered products on their website. 

Initial tests by the FDA confirmed that samples of lambanog involved in the suspected poisoning were positive of methanol, a highly poisonous substance.

Puno said methanol, along with other chemicals, is naturally produced when distilling lambanog, but this should already be removed during the process.

"Sa commercial distillers, meron silang capacity para ihiwalay 'yung methanol. Kapag house fermented, house brewed, usually wala silang teknolohiya na 'yun," she said. 

Methanol content in lambanog can easily be detected through its strong smell but it would be difficult to do so if the drink is already mixed with different flavors, Puno explained. 

Worse, the FDA chief said drinkers of alcohol with high methanol content may not immediately detect its effects because it feels very similar to a hangover.

Puno said it takes 12 to 24 hours before a person who consumed methanol feels its effects, like nerve damage or kidney and liver failure. 

She said they are still trying to zero in on the source of the lambanog drinks that figured in the suspected poisoning incident in Laguna.