Food Poisoning: [Sinabawang Pancit] Sinantak / Rice Noodles with Oxalic Acid

Yesterday, the topic was about food poisoning. Today, this topic is also about food poisoning.

Fourty students in Tuguegarao City are still in hospital due to food poisoning. Two students died. They suffered from stomach ache, vomiting and diarrhea after eating sinabawang pancit. The teacher admitted that it was her mistake. She mistakenly added oxalic acid to pancit thinking it was salt [bandila].

According to wordweb dictionary oxalic acid is a toxic colorless crystalline organic acid found in oxalis and other plants; used as a bleach and rust remover and in chemical analysis.

According to wikipedia, oxalic acid is an organic compound with the formula H2C2O4. This colourless solid is a dicarboxylic acid. In terms of acid strength, it is about 3,000 times stronger than acetic acid. Oxalic acid is a reducing agent and its conjugate base, known as oxalate (C2O42−), is a chelating agent for metal cations. Typically oxalic acid occurs as the dihydrate with the formula C2O4H2·2H2O [wikipedia]

In humans, oxalic acid has an oral LDL ,lowest published lethal dose, of 600 mg/kg. The teacher might added to much and the two children also ate too much pancit.

When I worked in a  laboratory, we always dumped chemicals without label. It did not matter if it was new or still full. Chemical reagents without names are very dangerous. You need to guess to  know its name – hard and not advisable.

This is how the oxalic acid looks like. It is similar to iodized salt and vetsin.

Such dangerous chemical should not be placed near cooking materials. A proper and indelible label is also needed for easy identification.

update as of june 16, 2011

– The parents of dead children threw the blame to teacher who accidentally mixed oxalic acid to foods.

– I heard rumors that the food was rice noodles or sinantak, not sinabawang pancit.

– The crystalline chemical was found by police in canteen. The said chemical has no label.

– Department of Education (DepED) is conducting its own investigation. Maybe they should investigate who brought the reagent to canteen.

– The reagent may not be an oxalic acid. The victims showed darkening of lips and fingers which are not consistent with oxalic poisoning. Few symptoms should be convulsion and blurred eyesight – not experienced by survivors.

– The reagent sample is under analysis by UP Poison Center. There are doubt that it might be marble cleanser.

update as of june 17, 2011

Rumors: The tulya (clam) ingredient of rice noodles might be contaminated.

DepEd Secretary Armin Luistro reminded the teachers and school administrators to make sure all food serve inside school premises are sanitary and safe.

Marvin is the lead chocolate maker of Ben and Lyn Chocolate Inc. Has strong background in food research and development. Occasionally conducts training and lectures. Lecturer of Cocoa Foundation of the Philippines. Do coaching and consultancy services on his free time.

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