In a follow-up to the report of two deaths linked to contaminated chilled milk tea, the Philippines Department of Health said in a statement Monday that in coordination with the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and toxicologists from the UP-Philippine General Hospital (PGH), they obtained and studied the footage from the food establishment to aid in assessing the clinical manifestations and course of illness of the victims. Samples of the milk tea ingested were also submitted for examination. Preliminary results were negative for suspected toxic substances. However, we have expanded the tests to include biological samples such as blood, tissues, and gastric contents from the victims as collected during the autopsy.

Image/Philippines DOH Facebook
Image/Philippines DOH Facebook

The situation appears to be an isolated event, pointing to a possible case of poisoning. Let me emphasize that this is isolated. In fact, this is the third time the couple bought milk tea in the same food establishment.

The couple they speak of is Suzanne Dagohoy and Arnold Aydalla. On Thursday, the were sickened after tasting milk tea served at the Ergo Cha shop in Bustillos, Sampaloc. Within moments of drinking the milk tea, Dagohoy experienced retching, dizziness, loss of consciousness, twitching of extremities, and pallor. She died 5 hours later.

Mr. Aydalla reportedly experienced fast breathing, chest tightness, weakness of extremities, and carpopedal spasm seven minutes after he sipped the tea. He is currently at the Philippine General Hospital.

In addition to the couple, shop owner William Abrigo also died hours after drinking the milk tea.

Health officials say no untoward incident happened during the previous intake. “We appeal to the public not to generalize the situation as many small and medium scale enterprises are dependent on the sale of milk tea and similar beverages” they noted in the statement.

A joint DOH-DENR Advisory concerning cyanide-containing substances has been issued in 2010. Taking into consideration the serious health impact of cyanide-containing silver jewelry cleaning solutions, the DOH calls for the immediate passage of a law making the sale and dispensing of these substances a criminal act. Meanwhile, we urge the local government units to pass ordinances banning these substances in their respective jurisdictions.

We call on the public to be aware of the initial signs and symptoms of poisoning, such as vomiting, diarrhea, muscle weakness, and impaired or loss of consciousness. Whether mild or severe, the patient should be immediately brought to the nearest hospital. Poisoning is deadly and immediate medical attention is warranted.

Despite the press conference, several Filipinos were not satisfied with the health department’s statement.

One person called the report “pointless” while another said the statement raised nothing but confusion. One gentleman called out the DOH saying, “Just do your job , , so that it will not happen again.”