MORONG -- More than 300 people were treated for suspected food poisoning after they ate Banh Mi, a Vietnamese sandwich sold here.
Dr. Emma Bugay, Morong municipal health officer, said on March 2 that 160 were admitted to the municipal health center, while 160 others were treated in dispensaries.
“They were vomiting and experiencing diarrhea. All of them ate Banh Mi. Some victims who came from remote areas were feeling so weak,” Bugay said.
Banh Mi, Vietnamese for bread, consists of a baguette with tomato, cucumber, onion, homemade liver, pork and butter, among others. It is Vietnam’s most recognized food after “pho.”
Bugay said Morong is popular for the sandwich, visitors and locals patronize the stores selling it.
Morong Mayor Cynthia Estanislao ordered the closure of Banh-Mian ni Raven, a store near the municipal hall, where all the victims bought the sandwich, while an investigation was ongoing.
The Philippine News Agency (PNA) tried to contact the store owners at their residence in Morong but failed.
Bugay said that according to the store owner, the 300 sandwiches they prepared for the day were all sold out.
She said Banh Mi is big and often shared by two persons, so she estimated that not only 300 persons were affected.
“More than 300 persons are being treated and we are still awaiting less than 300 additional victims,” the doctor said.
She said some visitors from Olongapo City, Manila, and Pampanga brought Banh Mi on the same day.
“There might be others who got hospitalized in the said areas,” she said.
A laboratory test of the patients’ stool showed the presence of bacteria, she said.
“We are treating the bacteria which might last from two to three days,” Bugay said, adding they have readied a specimen of Banh Mi that will be brought to Manila for laboratory examination.
Gabriel La Madrid, 50, said he bought Banh Mi for P50 and brought it to the factory where he was working.
“After eating, I got a headache and abdominal pain. Then I experienced diarrhea. That is why I decided to come here to the health center,” he said.
Jason Mendoza, 20, bought the sandwich and ate it in his workplace too. “I got a fever and suffered abdominal pain with watery stool,” he said.
Irene dela Cruz bought Banh Mi and brought it home. She said her husband and seven-year-old son shared it and both of them later vomited.
The victims said they often eat Banh Mi but this was the first time they experienced food poisoning after consuming it.
Some eatery owners in the former Philippine Refugee Processing Center were taught by Vietnamese refugees how to prepare Banh Mi and continued to sell it after the refugees left in 1994.
The special kind sells for P50 each, and the ordinary for P25. (PNA)