The Centre for Food Safety (CFS) noted a recent media report on an acute food poisoning case where a child in the Mainland died after eating mouldy sugarcane bought from a supermarket.
According to the literature and information of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, fatal food poisoning caused by deteriorated sugarcane has been reported in Mainland China. Evidence showed that the food poisoning was caused by the consumption of improperly stored sugarcane contaminated with a kind of mycotoxin that affects the central nervous system. Symptoms of deteriorated sugarcane poisoning include dizziness, vomiting, convulsion and coma. Death may be resulted in severe cases. In general, mouldy sugarcane does not has a lustrous appearance. It does not feel firm when pressed by hand and lack elasticity. The tips and cut surfaces of mouldy sugarcane have abnormal colour (red, brown or even grayish black colour), and may also have white flocculent hyphae or mycelium of the mould. Mouldy sugarcane smells like fermenting wine and should not be consumed.
To prevent mould growth on food and ensure food safety, members of the public and the trade are advised to:
- source food from reliable suppliers;
- store food in a cool and dry place;
- refrigerate perishable food and consume as soon as possible; and
- discard food with mould except for those containing mould as part of the manufacturing process.
While the cause of the recent incident is pending, the CFS is concerned about the incident, and will closely monitor the situation and take appropriate actions to safeguard food safety and public health.