MANILA, April 13 — The Department of Health (DOH) said on Monday that no trace of any toxic substance was found from the samples of the milk tea that allegedly caused the death of two persons and the hospitalization of another one in Manila last week. In a press briefing held at the DOH Media Relations Unit (MRU) in Sta. Cruz, Manila, the department said the tests conducted by the Food and Drugs Administration (FDA) on the milk tea samples taken from the Ergo Cha Milk Tea House on Bustillos St., Sampaloc, yielded “negative result.”
The DOH said it is looking for other ways to determine what particular substance/s really caused the alleged poisoning that resulted to the death of the tea house owner, William Abrigo, and a customer, Suzaine Dagohoy, and hospitalization of the latter’s boyfriend, Arnold Aydalla, on April 9. The agency has expanded tests that will focus on biological samples such as blood, tissues and gastric contents from the victims as collected during the autopsy.
It may be recalled that last Thursday, Dagohoy and Aydalla, two regular customers of the tea house, complained to the owner about the foul taste of the Hokkaido-flavored milk tea which Abrigo himself prepared. To prove that there was nothing wrong with the tea, Abrigo tasted it himself. However, a few minutes later, he collapsed on the floor of the store and was taken to the nearby Ospital ng Sampaloc where he died. Dagohoy and her boyfriend were earlier taken to the same hospital, where the former also died. Aydalla is still recuperating in the hospital.
“We are actually looking for cyanides, nitrates, nitrites, organophosphate, oxalic acid, nitrobenzene and other poisonous substances. All the lead elements will be tested,” Secretary Garin said. She added that they wanted to base the findings on the whole picture and not on the laboratory tests as she cited that such can be done through forensic autopsy.
According to Dr. Visitacion Antonio, toxicologist of the East Avenue Medical Center in Quezon City, the testing will take some time and results cannot be immediately released, just like in other cases of poisoning in the past.
“The result of the laboratory tests on the milk tea, laboratory results on biological specimens like gastric aspirate, blood, urine will be gathered together and then we can come up with the conclusion,” Dr. Antonio explained.
Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Deputy Director General Ma. Lourdes Santiago said there is possibility that in the preliminary tests conducted, traces of the residues of the toxic substances were not detected from the samples due to the sipping of the milk through the bottom of the straw, wherein the toxic substances concentrated and was ingested faster by the victims.
She added that as of now, an autopsy, which will be conducted by forensic experts from the Philippine National Police (PNP), is the most conclusive method that they are eyeing in identifying the real cause of the suspected food poisoning.
During the press briefing, Secretary Garin urged people to be aware of the initial signs and symptoms of food poisoning such as vomiting-diarrhea, muscle weakness and impaired loss of consciousness. (PNA/ Leilani S. Junio)