Lab test singles out carbamate as cause behind Batu Gajah food poisoning

A lab test result has revealed that the food sold at a roadside stall near Batu Gajah, Perak contained carbamate. ― AFP pic
A lab test result has revealed that the food sold at a roadside stall near Batu Gajah, Perak contained carbamate. ― AFP pic

IPOH, March 10  — The food sold at a roadside stall near Batu Gajah, Perak, which caused 33  customers to be admitted to hospital from March 4 to 6 was found to be contaminated with pesticide containing a chemical compound called carbamate.

The laboratory results on the food samples from the stall were announced at a press conference here yesterday.

Health committee chairman Datuk Dr Mah Hang Soon told reporters the initial suspicion of the food being contaminated by organophosphate was based on  symptoms shown by the patients.

He said both organophosphate and carbamate poisoning showed similar symptoms such as dizziness, diarrhoea, confusion, muscle twitching, pinpoint pupils, excessive sweating and salivation.

The treatment required for both types of poisoning was also similar.

However, Dr Mah said, unlike carbamate poisoning, organophosphate poisoning was irreversible.

“Because carbamate poisoning is reversible, most of the patients admitted to hospital recovered fast and were allowed to go home,” he said.

“There are four patients still receiving treatment — three at Raja Permaisuri Bainun Hospital and one at KPJ Ipoh Specialist Hospital.”

Dr Mah said analysis by the Chemistry Department found carbamate in the sambal for the nasi lemak, fried koay teow, kuih bom and cucur badak.

“We will let the police investigate how  the chemical compound ended in the food because we did not find carbamate in or around the area,” he said.

“We will provide the police with  documents such as laboratory findings.”

Dr Mah said the finding ruled out weedkiller as the likely cause of the contamination.

Carbamate can enter the body either through ingestion, inhalation or via dermal route. Dermal exposure tends to be a less toxic route compared to ingestion and inhalation.

It has many common names such as Aldicarb, Carbaryl, Carbofuran and Thiodicarb, and is commonly used for homes, gardens and farms.

Batu Gajah police district chief ACP Mohd Nasri Mohd Omar said police had been monitoring the situation since March 4, but would only begin their investigation  once they had received all the documents from the state health authorities.