Bug eating causes mass poisoning in northern Vietnam

Thanh Nien News

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One of 20 patients from Lai Chau Province being treated for poisoning after eating rice black bugs. Photo credit: Vietnam+ One of 20 patients from Lai Chau Province being treated for poisoning after eating rice black bugs. Photo credit: Vietnam+
A man died and 20 others were hospitalized with symptoms of food poisoning after eating insects man caught at a rice farm in the northern mountainous province of Lai Chau on June 12.
The victims aged 5-90, are all Thai ethnic residents of Than Uyen District’s Khoen On Commune, news website Vietnam (+) Plus reported.
The insects they consumed have been identified as "black rice bugs" (Scotinophora lurida) a common pest that occurs in irrigated rice farms in southeast asia.
The victims were initially admitted to the Than Uyen District Hospital; four were then transferred to the Lai Chau General Hospital as their condition grew worse.
Among the severe cases was a pregnant woman who successfully delivered a baby at the Than Uyen District Hospital.
One of the patients, Luong Van Ban, 25, said his father Luong Van Mung and two grandchildren caught about four kilograms of black rice bugs at a farm near their home on June 12 and cooked them for a meal.
“Many neighbors and relatives joined us after tasting the bugs and deciding they were delicious,” he said.
After the meal was over, the 60-year old Mung complained about pains in his neck that spread to his chest and back before paralyzing his limbs.
Everyone who ate the insects soon showed symptoms of food poisoning, including Ban, his wife and his two children.
They were admitted to the district hospital, where Mung died two days later.
Doctor Nguyen Duc Cuong of Lai Chau General Hospital said the facility has admitted four patients between June 16 and 17, of which two suffered from acute liver damage.
On June 18, the Food Safety Department under the Ministry of Health instructed the Lai Chau Health Department to take all possible measures to treat the patients.
The agency was instructed to indentify the actual cause of the food poisoning and warn residents to avoid it at all costs.
In an entry posted on the website of the northwestern province of Yen Bai, a different bug species that lives on longan trees was described as a delicacy.
“Dishes made from insects like scorpions, crickets, grasshopper, bugs, etc. are totally safe and nutritious,” it quoted Professor Vu Quang Con, chairman of Vietnam Entomology Association as saying. “Live bugs have bad odors and can cause problems with your skin. However, the toxins break down in the cooking process.”
The national Food Safety Department has warned people not to eat bugs for safety reasons.
In another food poisoning case, five people in the Mekong Delta province of Hau Giang were hospitalized on June 17 after eating freshwater puffer fish.
Bui Thi Ha, 61, said she bought a kilogram of the fish at the local market and made sour soup for her family.
“Six people ate the meal. Three of them are being treated at the Phung Hiep District Hospital. Because my husband and I are in more serious condition, were were transferred to [Can Tho Central Hospital],” Tuoi Tre quoted Ha as saying.
Another was released with mild food poisoning, she said, adding that her family often eats pufferfish and enjoys it.
Doctor Bo Kim Phuong of Can Tho Central Hospital said people should not eat pufferfish because they can easily cause poisoning.
Several days earlier, the hospital admitted a couple from Binh Thuy District who became sick after eating an unidentified mushroom.
Luckily, they sought treatment in time, Phuong said.

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