Suspected tainted wine kills 4, sickens 10 in Cambodia

PHNOM PENH, Cambodia (AP) — Four people died and 10 others were hospitalized in Cambodia after drinking rice wine that police believe was adulterated with a toxic substance.

The people were stricken Tuesday and Wednesday in the northwestern province of Banteay Meanchey after drinking the bottled beverage, which consisted of wine mixed with traditional medicine, provincial police chief Gen. Ath Khem said.

Dangerous cheap but powerful alcoholic drinks are a perennial problem in Cambodia’s poor rural areas, and several accidental poisonings are reported each year. Often the alcohol is not distilled properly and contains methanol, which can kill even in small amounts.

Rice wine is typically home-brewed and is popular at social gatherings, though police said in this case the wine was a brand that came from the capital, Phnom Penh, and has been sold in provincial markets for several years without incident. Ath Khem said the authorities were seeking the wine company’s owner for questioning.

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Ath Khem said a preliminary investigation suggested the wine was tainted with a toxic substance. Samples were collected from the victims for testing in a laboratory in the capital.

In May 2018, 14 villagers died and more than 200 others were sickened in the northeastern province of Kratie after drinking rice wine containing methanol.

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