In Tbong Khmum, an otherwise reportedly healthy 6-year-old girl’s death, after eating snacks suspected to be contaminated, has prompted a local food-poisoning scare and raised larger questions about the safety of Cambodia’s food distribution.
On November 15, three girls in Dambe district started seizing and vomiting, according to the district authorities.
One of the girls was particularly badly affected. After 24 hours of severe gastrointestinal symptoms and convulsing, her parents headed to the provincial hospital, but she died before a doctor could see her, the village chief told the Post.
Though no cause of death has been confirmed, local officials blamed two packaged imported snacks the girls shared hours before becoming ill.
The village chief confiscated the remaining packages for sale, and the provincial Health Department sent samples to labs in Phnom Penh. But after two weeks, the samples failed to test positive for a contaminant, which didn’t surprise the health workers.
“Cambodia doesn’t have lab equipment for checking this kind of sample,” said Keo Vannak, director of the provincial Health Department, adding that the treats have been sent abroad for better analysis.
While questions remain about what caused the girls’ sickness, the village is in a panic about its food supply.
“Our villagers are scared to buy packaged foods,” said Phath Sath, the village chief.
Despite confronting an enormous problem of nutrient wastage through diarrheal diseases – which kill millions annually – there is no “coordinated program of food surveillance and little analytical data regarding microbiological or chemical contamination of food” in Cambodia, the government says.