Nine people from the same family have died in China after consuming homemade corn noodles.

The family had eaten a local dish known as suantangzi earlier this month in the northeastern Heilongjiang province. All nine people fell ill several hours after having the food which is made from fermented corn flour.

Three younger members of the family did not eat the meal. It is thought the homemade food had been frozen in the family’s refrigerator for up to one year.

Bongkrekic acid was detected in the noodles and in samples taken from patients.

Previous incidents
Bongkrekic acid, produced by the bacterium, Burkholderia cocovenenans, is heat-stable and cannot be removed by washing. It has been implicated in outbreaks of foodborne illness involving coconut- and corn-based products in Indonesia and China. Contaminated foods can look, smell, and taste the same as non-contaminated items.

Patients suffering from bongkrekic acid poisoning may have symptoms including abdominal pain and vomiting. For severe cases, it might cause deranged liver function and death.

In January 2015, in a town in Mozambique, 234 people became sick and 75 died after drinking pombe, a traditional alcoholic beverage.

Toxic levels of bongkrekic acid were detected in the drink and Burkholderia cocovenenans were found in the flour used to make it, according to a study published in the journal Clinical Infectious Diseases.

Another study, published in 2019, reported five cases of bongkrekic acid-induced food poisoning caused by eating rice noodles, a popular traditional food in Guangdong, China. All people needed hospital treatment and three died.

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