Distributed food aid is suspected to be behind more than 200 people falling sick in the Philippines.

Agusan del Sur health officials said 216 people had been treated in the hospital earlier this week with symptoms such as vomiting and stomach aches.

The incident is being treated as food poisoning based on the symptoms of patients taken to different medical centers. The majority of people have now been discharged, and none are believed to be seriously sick.

Suspected food came from the Philippine Red Cross (PRC). The agency has been helping thousands of people affected by flooding and landslides in Mindanao. Local media reported meals included chicken liver, egg, and rice.

Red Cross response
PRC has suspended the hot meals program in the province while an investigation into the cause of the incident is ongoing.

“The welfare of the people is of utmost concern to us, and we are doing everything we can to ensure that every individual taken to the hospital is out of harm’s way as soon as possible. We will wait for the results of the ongoing investigation and extend our support to the authorities. PRC remains transparent and will closely coordinate with the local government on this serious matter,” said a PRC statement.

PRC said it was one of several groups providing hot meals in Agusan del Sur. It has served about a thousand residents per day since January.

Testing of stool samples from patients, food, and drinking water has been undertaken, with results pending.

PRC has distributed water and almost 24,500 hot meals to flood victims and sent 248 volunteers to assist in relief efforts and conducting first aid sessions and training on hygiene.

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