After a string of fatal rice wine poisoning incidents in Kampot and Kandal provinces, provincial and local authorities throughout the country have collaborated to educate and train people in the skills necessary to safely produce rice wine for consumers.

Sok Kim Choeun, director of the Kampot provincial department of industry, science, technology and innovation, told The Post on May 30 that specialists had collaborated with local authorities to train and had granted licences to six families for the production of standard rice wine.

He added that unlicensed rice wine distilling-facilities in the province’s Kampong Trach district had caused at least 10 deaths and dozens of cases of illness recently. Those facilities were banned from further production temporarily because the proprietors had yet to register their business as prescribed by law.

“So far, we have trained and granted licences to six rice wine producing-families who are able to do it safely. Other producers like the ones in Kampong Trach district have yet to be granted licences as recognition that they follow safety standards,” he said.

He added that some producers in the area had been producing it safely but they had yet to receive permits. In order to ensure product quality, all producers have to clearly register their businesses and take a training course before producing rice wine for sale and consumption.

Kim Choeun continued that his department had been cooperating with specialists from the commerce ministry’s consumer protection, competition and fraud repression bureau in Kampot and the district authorities to train them in distilment techniques in 14 communes in the district.

Sok Naroeun, deputy head of the consumer protection, competition and fraud repression bureau in Kampot, told The Post that most of the producers had no official permits and almost no producers have received any prior formal technical training. They only learned to make rice wine from their parents and grandparents.

“Most of the producers and vendors are dishonest. They think only of their own profits without being concerned about the safety and lives of others. They mix methanol [with ethanol] and poison consumers, making them sick and even killing them,” he said.

Kampong Trach district governour Aun Khon said on May 30 that all of the recent poisoning patients who were admitted to the district referral hospital had now recovered and returned to their homes while the producers in Russey Srok Khang Koeut and Svay Tong Khang Koeut communes were not allowed to reopen their businesses at this time.

“For consumer safety, our police have continued to temporarily suspend all the rice wine businesses ... in the two communes until further notice,” he said.

He added that recently 20 families across 14 communes who produced the wine had applied for a training course on rice wine distilment and the specialists planned to begin the course on June 5.

Toch Sao Koy, head of the consumer protection, competition and fraud repression bureau in Kandal province, told The Post that his working group was now spreading the word, educating and training rice wine producers across Lvea Em district, where fatal rice wine poisoning were reported earlier this month.

“Wine producers need to eliminate the first wine drop and must not mix it with methanol. It poisons rice wine consumers.

“Trying to make excessive profits without considering the danger caused to others can constitute a violation of the law,” he said.