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Published On: Mon, Nov 9th, 2015

Mozambique: Tainted beer, not deliberate poisoning killed dozens after a January funeral

After a lengthy investigation and laboratory analysis, health officials in Mozambique have determined that 75 people that were killed and another 150 were sickened not by deliberate poisoning but by contaminated corn flour used to make some homemade beer this past January.

Mozambique/CIA

Mozambique/CIA

When the tragedy first occurred in January at a party after a funeral in the village of Chitima, Cahora Bassa district in Tete, officials first suspected foul play in which the brew, known as Pombe, was deliberately poisoned with crocodile bile, according to a Radio Mozambique report (computer translated).

Pombe, a traditional Mozambican beer, is made from millet or corn flour and brewed for about two days. It is often served during ceremonies, and is sold in rural areas of the country.

However, Mozambique health authorities said last week, “The victims were poisoned by the homemade beer which had been contaminated by toxic bacteria found in the corn flour used to brew it.”

Tests conducted in the USA identified Burkholderia gladioli  pathovar cocovenenans, a bacterium found in the flour as the source of the poisoning. Burkholderia cocovenenans produces a lethal toxin (Bongkrekic acid) that leads to high fatality in food poisoning cases.

Health officials say the toxin already existed in the scientific literature reporting cases of sudden illness, comparable with the case of Chitima, occurring in China and Indonesia and also resulting from the consumption of fermented foods.

“The occurrence of these poisonings is a relatively rare event,” a health ministry spokesperson noted.

The investigation concluded that cornmeal was damaged in the house where it was stored after rains that flooded the place.

Robert Herriman is a microbiologist and the Editor-in-Chief of Outbreak News Today and the Executive Editor of The Global Dispatch

Follow @bactiman63

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About the Author

- Writer, Co-Founder and Executive Editor of The Global Dispatch. Robert has been covering news in the areas of health, world news and politics for a variety of online news sources. He is also the Editor-in-Chief of the website, Outbreak News Today and hosts the podcast, Outbreak News Interviews on iTunes, Stitcher and Spotify Robert is politically Independent and a born again Christian Follow @bactiman63

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