The authorities have confirmed that the deaths of three women on September 1 in Phnom Penh were caused by grape and rice wine which had up to 88 times more methanol in it than the permitted level.
Both the wines, identified as the brand Meas Hong, were consumed by the victims in a rented unit near Aeon Mall in Tonle Bassac commune of Phnom Penh’s Chamkarmon district on Wednesday.
The General Directorate of Consumer Protection, Competition and Fraud Repression (CCF) said on September 3 that following reports of their death, its officials went to the scene to collect five wine samples that remained there.
“Laboratory tests confirmed that three out of five samples had high methanol level, ranging between 1.3 and 8.8 per cent, exceeding the permitted level of 0.15 per cent by 13 to 88 times,” the department said.
CCF’s investigation also found that Meas Hong wines were produced in the capital’s Boeung Keng Kang III commune. They have ceased production since the incident.
About 576 Meas Hong wine bottles have been confiscated from shops and distribution centres, CCF said, adding that it will continue to search and seize the drinks.
“We call on the public to stop consuming grape wine and rice wine made by Meas Hong immediately in order to stay safe,” the CCF said.
It also urged sellers to stop selling the drinks and turn them over to the authorities to be destroyed.
Heng Mealy, head of the CCF department’s Phnom Penh branch told The Post on September 5 that authorities have temporarily suspended the production and distribution of the traditional wine.
Authorities will summon the producer of the wine for further questioning regarding the cause of the poisoning.
“Our officers are targeting and cooperating with distributors to ask them to clearly point out locations [of wine sellers] so that we can seize wine at the distribution point, such as houses and shops in the Phnom Penh and provinces,” he said.
According to Mealy, authorities were investigating the producer to determine whether the business was registered with any ministry, institution or entity or if it is an illegal wine production facility.
“Well, in about two weeks, we will conduct more research on what the producer has and what the relevant documents the owner has,” he said.