By William Casis

Health Usec. Eric Domingo on December 23 confirmed that the number of deaths due to methanol poisoning from drinking lambanog or coconut wine rose to eight from the initial two earlier confirmed by the Department of Health (DoH).

On-line and TV reports, however,  said the number of deaths from methanol poisoning  already reached 11.

Domingo, also Food and Drug Administration (FDA) OIC, related that the rushed or incorrect method of producing the distilled palm liquor may lead to the production of methanol, which is poisonous to humans.

He called on lambanog manufacturers to ensure that they get FDA approval for their products.

“It is important that this product is registered, checked and tested.  Backyard  production is really difficult because the product in not regulated,” he pointed out. 

The DoH earlier  said it is investigating reports that  265 persons have  fallen ill with two confirmed deaths due to alleged poisoning after drinking  lambanog  in Rizal, Laguna.

Health Sec. Francisco Duque III said a total of 66 individuals were brought to Philippine General Hospital for treatment and observation. 

Of the 66, 49 (84 percent) were male. Ages ranged from 13-65 years old. 

Fifty five or 95 percent of the victims were residents of Rizal, Laguna. All had a history of lambanog ingestion between December 19 to 22.

Other affected individuals were brought to East Avenue Medical Center (62), Rizal Medical Center (82), Quirino Memorial Medical Center (13) and Batangas Medical Center (42) for medical management.

The FDA has repeatedly issued warnings to lambanogbrewers over its high methanol content.

It also advised the public to exercise extreme caution in purchasing and consuming the alcohol beverage and to buy only those registered with FDA.

Lambanog poisoning is caused by residual methanol, which in high levels becomes highly toxic for humans,” also said FDA. 

Methanol is a naturally occurring substance present during the distilling process, that should be separated and removed.

Duque said FDA regulatory inspectors have been deployed to municipality of Rizal, Laguna to collect samples and investigate the alleged poisoning incident. DoH assigned  teams to the different health facilities where affected individuals were referred.

He assured the DoH is on top of the situation. “We are investigating the alleged lambanog poisoning.”

Meanwhile, Duque urged “Let us stay sober as we celebrate the festivities with our families and loved ones.”