Samples of a milk tea that killed two persons in Sampaloc, Manila last week were found negative for toxic substances, according to the Department of Health.
“Preliminary results were negative for suspected ‘toxic’ substances,” Health Secretary Janette Garin said during a press briefing on Monday.
Suzanne Dagohoy, 28, and William Abrigo, 57, collapsed and died after drinking Hokaidou chilled milk tea on Thursday. Abrigo was the owner of the Ergo Cha franchise shop.
Dagohoy’s boyfriend, Arnold Aydalla, 34, was also taken to the hospital after taking a sip of the beverage. He is now recovering at the Philippine General Hospital.
Garin said tests are continuing to determine the cause of the two victims’ death.
She said verification will be expanded to include “biological samples such as blood, tissues, and gastric contents from the victims as collected during the autopsy.”
These tests could prove the presence of “toxins” in the milk tea.
“Toxins” are different from “toxic” substances. The first are “organic” and may be produced by microorganisms, while the second could be made from a chemical or combination of chemicals such as those found in pesticides.
Garin said her department is also studying the security video footage at the Ergo Cha stall taken during the time of the incident.
“DOH, in coordination with the Food and Drug Administration and toxicologists from the UP-Philippine General Hospital (PGH), obtained and studied the footage from the food establishment to aid in assessing the clinical manifestations and course of illness of the victims. Samples of the milk tea ingested were also submitted for examination,” she said.
Garin urged the public not to make conclusions or sweeping generalizations.
“The situation appears to be an isolated event, pointing to a possible case of poisoning. Let me emphasize that this is isolated. In fact, this is the third time the couple bought milk tea in the same food establishment. No untoward incident happened during the previous intake,” she said.
An expert at the National Poison Center at PGH told The Manila Times it could take months before the true cause of poisoning can be known.
The doctor, who asked not to be named, cited a case in 2005 when 30 school children in Bohol died after eating maruya or cassava fritters, contaminated with pesticide.
“In that case it took six months before it was officially concluded that the cause of poisoning was pesticide contamination,” she said.