Researchers have analyzed various food poisoning cases in Vietnam over two years.

The study described poisonings from food and drinks in Vietnam from March 2020 to August 2022. Seven popular Vietnamese online newspapers were searched using the term “food poisoning.”

In 184 articles that reported food poisoning, there were 3,711 people sickened. According to the study published in Case Studies in Chemical and Environmental Engineering, all provinces in Vietnam reported cases of many different foods.

Scientists found that 14.6 percent of poisoning cases were caused by eating toads and their offal.

Insects such as cicadas, bugs, crickets, and the Spanish fly accounted for almost a quarter of all food poisoning cases of animal origin.

Mushroom and alcohol issues
Researchers said patients often use wild vegetables, fruits, or mushrooms without ensuring their safety. Among 42 articles of poisoning with this type of food, there were 14 related to eating wild vegetables and poisonous leaves. This was followed by stories on cases caused by eating poisonous mushrooms in the wild.

According to researchers, Vietnam has a high degree of biodiversity.

“Therefore, the vegetation in Vietnam is very diverse, and many plants among them contain toxic substances. Furthermore, people’s knowledge and awareness are still limited. They do not have enough knowledge to identify inedible plants and fungi,” according to the report.

41 articles mentioned alcohol. Most victims consumed a large amount of industrial alcohol with high methanol content, causing acute poisoning. A few were poisoned when drinking alcohol mixed with other ingredients. In one incident, nine people fell sick, and four died in a severe episode of alcohol poisoning in Ba Tri district, Ben Tre province.

As for the remaining food poisoning cases, the main cause was unsanitary processing and cooking, which caused food to be contaminated with dangerous agents such as Clostridium botulinum.

In an unidentified poisoning incident in the province of Hung Yen, nine people were sickened. Patients had abdominal pain, vomiting, convulsions, and mouth foaming after a family lunch of pork, pork rolls, fried eggs, and celery. Five people died.

Raising awareness of the problem
The number of food poisoning illnesses varied over time, and several provinces recorded no cases during the study period.

Most incidents were reported in 2020, particularly during May, June, July and September. Da Nang city in the Central region reported the most cases. Most were due to alcohol, vegetarian pate, and sea snails. 

The number of food poisoning victims was lowest in the first quarter and highest in the third quarter annually. The third quarter of the year is the rainy season and the hot and humid climate. This is the ideal environment for microorganisms, according to the study.

“We need an inventory of food poisoning cases and a description of the food poisoning situation to raise the awareness of Vietnamese consumers of this matter,” said researchers.

“To prevent food poisoning, Vietnam has introduced policies to protect users, such as penalizing places that provide dirty food and publishing information about ensuring food hygiene and safety. However, these regulations still have loopholes, leading to a lack of food safety and hygiene.”

Researchers said consumers need to be educated about food recalls and the proper handling, storage, and cooking process for foods; they need to wash their hands before cooking and eating; people should not try uncommon foods and need to buy food from places of clear origin. 

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