Cambodian toxic hooch kills 31 in less than a month

PHNOM PENH (AFP) – Toxic home-brewed rice wine has killed more than 30 Cambodian villagers in three separate incidents in less than a month, authorities said Friday (June 4).

Seven women died and nearly 100 people were hospitalised in the latest poisoning, after drinking hooch contaminated with up to 15 per cent methanol.

This followed 14 deaths and 10 deaths at two separate funerals in May.

In all three incidents, the home-brewed rice wine contained methanol, which unlike ethanol – the usual form of alcohol found in drinks – is highly toxic, and can cause blindness even in very small doses.

At least 15 rice wine brewers and sellers have been arrested, according to Cambodian police, while the health ministry has renewed calls for people to avoid drinking contaminated beverages.

Cambodia is one of Asia’s poorest countries and health and safety standards are virtually non-existent outside major cities.

Home-made rice wine is popular in rural areas at wedding parties, village festivals and funerals as a cheap alternative to commercially produced drinks.

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