Kampong Chhnang provincial authorities have ordered the temporary closure of local rice wine producers and distributors to give officials time to inspect facilities and analyse their products in the wake of illnesses and deaths from rice wine poisoning.

Provincial deputy police chief Ea Bunthoeun told The Post on December 10 that the governor had ordered an injunction against the production and sale of rice and herbal wines across the province.

“We don’t know when their facilities and businesses might reopen,” he said.

He added that the police have detained nine people involved with the case of rice wine poisoning in Teuk Phos district and sent them to the provincial court. They have been charged with manslaughter.

He said that the provincial authorities have shut down 515 rice wine distilleries and 1,115 rice and herbal wine vendors. Experts must monitor standard rice wine production so that it will not endanger drinkers. The poisoned wines were found to contain high concentrations of methanol, far in excess of the legal limit of 0.15 per cent.

“It is the habit of citizens that they have always drunk rice wine from shops after ending work. But this has been the largest-ever case of rice wine poisoning, and it seems people’s awareness of associated risks has improved,” Bunthoeun said.

Over 130 people were poisoned with tainted wines in Teuk Phos and other districts in Kampong Chhnang in recent weeks, killing 15 people.

Authorities across the province have been spreading messages of the dangers of tainted rice wine and the importance of Covid-19 prevention over loudspeakers every day in all districts.

On December 10, the Ministry of Health issued a press release on measures to prevent rice wine, herbal wine and food poisoning, urging caution.

“Citizens, please immediately stop drinking rice wine or herbal wine that is bought from an unclear source. The products might not have been inspected properly, and their quality in local communities might be substandard,” health minister Mam Bun Heng said.

He stressed that rice wine producers must not blend methanol compounds into their products as that results in poisoning and deaths.

The minister also advised citizens who may have been poisoned by wines or food to visit a local health centre for treatment.