The Truth is in the Egg Pudding

Oct 28, 2013 by

Yes I may be a month or so late.

But the reason why I did not blog about such a controversial topic was definitely not because I have lost my edge as THE source of information in this dynamic world of blogging. It was because I let the professor in me take over. Waiting until most of the facts came out, before I shared my perspective on this issue of which I consider myself to be well-versed in (by consumption and by association).

The topic my dear friends, is Milk Tea.

The whole town was abuzz with rumours, confusion, chaos, DISASTER… particularly in a milk tea addict’s world, when it was rumoured that 66 people in total were hospitalised, and one death ensued due to the consumption of tea beverages in Dakasi Iloilo during the last week of September. While the whole town eagerly waited for the official report from the Department of Health, the text brigade from the “malinformed” (to put it lightly), quickly ensued. The message was clear: DO NOT drink milk tea.

I of course was one of the many frustrated recipients of these text messages. I would read mindless tweets and facebook statuses, of the “malinformed” —  from cyanide and maleic acid in the tapioca pearls, to conspiracy theories, to poison in the tea itself. And of course, in grace, I kept my silence, knowing which battles to choose. There is no point in arguing with the half-educated. Little knowledge is more dangerous than zero knowledge, so I say.

Finally, on October 7, 2013, the official report of the DOH was released. It was true. 66 people were hospitalised, and one death occurred from the Dakasi incident. Dr. Alonsabe, head of the Regional Epidemiological Surveillance Unit of DOH-6, confirmed in the news that yes, it was Salmonella poisoning. E.coli was also found in the stool samples. DOH deduced that it was most probably from the fresh eggs mixed into the egg pudding mixture. Egg pudding is one of the “add on” or sinker options in milk tea. However, it is used by only a few daring milk tea establishments due to its fast spoilage rate.  You can choose not to have egg pudding in your milk tea.

You see with egg pudding, the egg pudding powder itself came from the main Dakasi branch in Manila. You boil it with water at 100 degrees celcius. If the egg pudding powder itself was contaminated, then other Dakasi branches would also be affected, but this was not the case. Other Dakasi branches were fine.

Anyhow,  after the egg pudding mixture boils, the DOH discovered that the Dakasi staff removes it from the stove, lets it cool a bit, then adds SIX FRESH EGGS (this was sourced from the local market). So when DOH tested the mixture with the fresh eggs, it only reached a temperature of 51 degrees celcius. You need 75 degrees and above to kill salmonella! So they concluded, the salmonella came from the six fresh eggs that were not cooked thoroughly.

83% of people who were hospitalised drank tea with egg pudding as an “add on”. The 17% had other “add ons”, but the DOH report admitted that they did not document who among this 17% sipped drinks with egg pudding from their friends.

Now this is where it gets interesting. It is a well known fact through several news reports that Dakasi did not have a sanitary permit. The DOH report also stated that 4 of the Dakasi staff tested positive for Salmonella (non typhoidal), making them carriers of the pathogen.

On October 25, 2013, the City Health Office, mainly Dr. Baronda via TV Patrol News stated that they have not established the cause of the recent food poisoning in Dakasi and are still waiting for the test results of the ingredients of Dakasi from Manila. So therefore, they cannot declare it safe as yet to drink milk tea nor issue an order to have Dakasi re-opened.

Let’s back track a bit. Didn’t you guys just confirm it was Salmonella in the DOH report last October 7? So this is a food handling and sanitation issue. This is NOT an ingredients issue. If there was a Salmonella outbreak in Starbucks from their ham and egg sandwich (or whatever egg product they have), would you guys declare that it is not safe to drink coffee and send their coffee ingredients to undergo testing in Manila? Why target the coffee, when the fault is obviously with the eggs? Same as, why target milk tea when the fault is only in the egg pudding?

Another question arises: Can’t salmonella also thrive in milk tea because it has milk? Let me tell you something about milk tea. Through my powers of research, milk tea has been around in China since the 1960’s. The Chinese are the largest consumers of soy milk thereby rendering most of the population lactose intolerant. That’s why most milk bases for milk tea are non dairy creamers – allowing the lactose intolerant to experience the joys of milk tea without running to the toilet every 5 seconds.  Non dairy creamer also means there is virtually no chance of salmonella growing in milk tea – due to the absence of dairy. However, salmonella can definitely arise from egg pudding.

This is a classic example of the government using their talent for diversion tactics. The city health office is under the hot seat for letting Dakasi operate since March without a sanitary permit. So in essence, it is partly their fault that a huge establishment such as Dakasi was overlooked by government bodies and allowed to operate for so long without a sanitary permit. So the most obvious thing for the government to do, is to divert the attention of the consumers, declaring milk tea as not safe for consumption due to an ingredients issue.  It is CLEARLY a food handling issue, as evidenced in the DOH report last October 7. So instead of spending tax payers’ money testing the ingredients of milk tea, why don’t you just educate restaurant staff on basic handwashing and cooking procedures? That would definitely be more effective! Or order all milk tea establishments to scrap egg pudding from their add on options. Although this would not be completely fair because this would be synonymous to ordering all restaurants to remove all egg products from their menu – especially the fresh egg option in hot batchoy, which I also dearly love.

A salmonella outbreak can happen in any restaurant establishment that sells egg and chicken products. Why target milk tea outlets only? Either way, I feel Dakasi is doomed. I certainly hope government bodies will do the right thing and not tamper with the results of the ingredients test thereby making this seem like a chemical poisoning issue, rather than an obvious case of a salmonella outbreak — just to cover up their negligence.

I would like to expound on the symptoms experienced by the victims of Dakasi and how it is not synonymous with chemical poisoning, as agreed upon by friends from the medical field, but this blog is quite long. However, the public should know better. We deserve better.

I am liberated by the truth. I need my lychee fruit tea…with lots of pearls! To hell with carbs. A serving of pearls is only 30 calories anyway – I’ve probably burned that much (and more) writing this extremely profound blog.

Photo credits: http://www.ycsinteract.org

Photo credits: http://www.ycsinteract.org

**This blog is supported by interviews with epidemiologists, social media influencers, the published report of the Department of Health and a collection of online opinions from very reliable individuals, so don’t freak out.

 

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