Banteay Meanchey Noodle Crisis

From the American ABC, via Associated Press:

PHNOM PENH, Cambodia Jun 26, 2006 (AP)— Thirty Cambodians suffered food poisoning after eating homemade noodles contaminated with chewing tobacco that had dropped into the batter from the cook’s mouth, police said Monday.

The victims, mostly children, began vomiting after eating noodle soup for breakfast Friday in a village in Banteay Meanchey province, about 190 miles northwest of the capital, Phnom Penh, said Deputy District Police Chief Yort Ray.

An investigation turned up traces of chewing tobacco in the noodles and led police to 39-year-old wholesale noodle vendor Sieng Seng, who had supplied the shops where people got sick.

Sieng Sang, an avid tobacco chewer like many poor Cambodian women, said she had not realized a wad had dropped into the flour as she was talking.

Firstly, it is nice to see that the Cambodian police force is cracking down on the spate of noodle crime in Cambodia’s wild Northwest, instead of those minor problems of grave-looting, land-grabbing or logging Cambodia bare.

Secondly, despite being widely republished, I have my doubts that this news is entirely accurate. Although I could confirm this morning that Yorth Ray is actually a police chief in the Northwestern province of Banteay Meanchey, I couldn’t confirm whether he attended the poisoning or delivered the impromptu lecture on sanitary food preparation mentioned later in the article. Who tracks food poisonings in remote Banteay Meanchey? Did all thirty people attend the district hospital or is the number of vomiters pure hearsay? How much tobacco do you need to ingest to be sickened? Is it less than one thirtieth of a mouthful? If anyone can answer these questions with certainty, I’d be keen to know.

Although the chewing tobacco factor lends the article an edge, it does leave me wondering why this Cambodian case was widely reprinted from Associated Press when other mass food poisonings in the region (e.g. 100 tourists in Vietnam last week , 2300 schoolkids in South Korea the week before) received so much less interest in the West.

2 thoughts on “Banteay Meanchey Noodle Crisis”

  1. When I was working in US I swallowed once chewing tobacco and threw up almost instently.

    When I was young and wild, going back home by bus I ate a cigarette for 20 francs (4 US dollars???) and I almost died. My friends told my dad it was because of the driver.

    Right now I smoke 3 packs a day and I don’t fill very well… I belived in tobacco poisoning.

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