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Consumer group takes action in fatal Bongkrekic acid outbreak

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Consumer group takes action in fatal Bongkrekic acid outbreak

A consumer group in Taiwan appears poised to file a class action lawsuit following a fatal outbreak of food poisoning earlier this year.

The March incident claimed six lives and left 24 victims with minor or serious injuries, the Consumers’ Association said.

The Consumer Foundation said it would file a class action lawsuit seeking damages for the families of the six people who died and other victims, who suffered varying degrees of severity of illness.

30 consumers have expressed their willingness to be involved in the lawsuit, but information and evidence are still being assessed. The group said it would also monitor any findings from criminal investigations.

Bongkrekic acid, produced by the bacterium Burkholderia gladioli pathovar cocovenenans, is a deadly toxin.

Incident background
Over a few days in March, nine people who dined at a branch of Malaysian restaurant Polam Kopitiam developed symptoms within 12 hours and two of them died.

Research by experts from the Department of Forensic Medicine of National Taiwan University revealed the presence of Bongkrelic acid in the blood of one of the deceased, marking the first-ever detection of the toxin in Taiwan, according to a study published in the Journal of Infection. All patients with severe disease tested positive for Bongkrecine acid.

Despite Bongkrekic acid being found on samples from one of the chef’s hands at the restaurant, no food samples from the restaurant or its suppliers, including two types of rice noodles and pandan leaves, showed contamination.

A total of 34 people became ill after dining at the restaurant in March. Bongkrekic acid was detected in 22 patients. Investigations revealed that all cases had eaten flat rice noodles, making this product the most likely source of the outbreak.

Gastrointestinal symptoms, such as abdominal pain, diarrhea, nausea and vomiting, are the most common first signs of poisoning, followed by neurological symptoms, including generalized malaise, dizziness, headache, irritability, convulsions and loss of consciousness. The disease progresses rapidly, leading to the failure of multiple organs, including the brain, liver and kidneys.

There is no antidote for Bongkrekic acid poisoning and no standardized treatment protocols for affected individuals. Patient care generally includes providing symptomatic relief and supportive measures.

“The outbreak of Bongkrekic acid-related food poisoning in Taiwan underlines the urgent need for better awareness and surveillance of this rare but deadly poison. The diagnosis and treatment of Bongkrekic acid poisoning pose significant challenges, necessitating further research into effective detection methods and therapeutic interventions,” researchers said.

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