Blog # 112
Contaminated Corn Noodles Kill Nine in China
After consuming contaminated homemade corn noodles, a family of nine in Northeast China died due to Bongkrekic acid, an acid produced as a by-product of fermentation from the bacterium Burkholderia cocovenenans. Reports hypothesize that the family had previously frozen a popular local restaurant’s dish “Suantangzi”, which is a thick type of noodle made out of corn flour that has been fermented, about a year before actually consuming the dish. Nine of the family members fell ill several hours after consuming the dish, while the three family members that did not consume the dish presented no symptoms of food poisoning. Eight of the family members died within six days of consuming the noodles, and one died 14 days after consumption.
Bongkrekic acid functions as a respiratory toxin in both humans and animals, commonly causing typical food poisoning symptoms, such as abdominal pain, diarrhea, and vomiting.
In more severe cases, consumption of the toxin can result in shock, coma, and death, typically due to multi-organ failure and diffuse cellular dysfunction. Outbreaks have previously been noted in China and Indonesia, with an estimated 40-100 percent chance of death due to the Bongkrekic acid. The bacterium that creates the acid, Burkholderia cocovenenans, is customarily found in corn and coconuts, due to the ideal environment and available fatty acids. The bacterium Burkholderia cocovenenans then consumes the fatty acids in order to produce the toxic Bongkrekic acid.
Bongkrekic acid is heat-resistant and cannot be washed off, meaning that once the bacterium Burkholderia cocovenenans produces the toxic Bongkrekic acid, the food is inedible. Unfortunately, there is no difference that can be seen, smelt, or tasted, in food contaminated with the acid compared to uncontaminated food. In order to avoid poisoning from Bongkrekic acid, experts advice consumers to avoid ingesting foods made with fermented grain, and to avoid cooking with soaked or moldy corn.