Milk Tea Deaths Manila: Samples tested negative for cyanide, says DOH

Update on the milk tea deaths in Manila: The Department of Health (DOH) said Monday samples of the drink that killed two persons in Sampaloc last week tested negative for cyanide, nitrite, nitrate, and arsenic.

In a statement, the DOH said preliminary results revealed that samples of the milk tea ingested, which caused the deaths of Ergo Cha owner William Abrigo and customer Suzaine Dagohoy, did not contain the suspected toxic substances.

The health department said the same milk tea samples will be subjected to another round of tests to determine if the drink was tainted with oxalic acid, nitrobenzene, organophosphate, and organochlorine. The tests will be expanded to include biological samples from the victims such as blood, tissues, and gastric contents.

In coordination with the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and toxicologists from the UP-Philippine General Hospital (PGH), the DOH said it obtained and studied the CCTV footage from the establishment to aid in assessing the clinical manifestations and the victims' course of illness.

Photo credit: DZRH correspondent Boy Gonzales via Twitter

Emphasizing that the incident appears to be isolated, the DOH said it was the third time that the couple—Dagohoy and her boyfriend, Arnold Aydalla—bought milk tea in the same establishment and no untoward incident happened during the previous intake.

"We appeal to the public not to generalize the situation as many small and medium scale enterprises are dependent on the sale of milk tea and similar beverages," the DOH said in the statement.

The couple ordered a large 'Hokaidou' milk tea in the morning of Thursday, April 9. After they complained that the served drink tasted bad, the owner also took a sip to prove that there was nothing wrong with their product. A few minutes later, Dagohoy vomitted and collapsed, Aydalla got disoriented, and the tea house owner slumped to the floor.

The three were brought to the Ospital ng Sampaloc. Abrigo and Dagohoy died while Aydalla survived and is now recovering.

Meanwhile, the health department urged local government units to pass ordinances banning cyanide-containing silver jewelry cleaning solutions, taking into consideration its serious health impact. The DOH also called for the immediate passage of a law making the sale and dispensing of these substances a criminal act.

Sources: Department of Health, ABS-CBN News