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March 6, 2012

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Warning sounded on moldy sugar cane

HEALTH authorities are warning locals to be careful when purchasing sugar cane, as eating moldy cane may lead to serious poisoning that can be fatal.

Sugar cane sales were temporarily banned in Shenyang City, Liaoning Province, this month as cases of people suffering severe illness after eating moldy cane were widely reported online, sparking some panic.

Local food and drug officials said sugar cane would not be banned from sales in Shanghai, but they warned residents to be careful not to purchase the product if it's moldy.

In Shenyang, food-safety officials said moldy sugar cane poisoning has occurred in China for about 30 years. The period between February and April is peak season for such poisoning in northern China, the reason for the new ban.

Children are most likely to suffer from poisoning after eating moldy sugar cane, the officials warned. In 2004, five people in Hebei Province suffered food poisoning after eating sugar cane, including a 10-year-old boy who died, said a notice issued by the Ministry of Health.

Symptoms in 2 to 8 hours

According to the notice, moldy sugar cane contains a toxin that attacks the central nervous system. People usually start to show symptoms of poisoning two to eight hours after eating the moldy cane. The primary symptoms include vomiting, nausea, headache and vision obstruction.

Then patients can develop incontinence and convulsions, and those with more serious poisoning can suffer respiratory failure, lapse into a coma or die, the notice warned. There is no special therapy for the poisoning, the notice said.

Health authorities advised residents to observe sugar cane carefully before purchasing it. Normal sugar cane should have smooth and shiny skin and should not have hair-like substances on its ends.

Sugar cane that is dark, has white hair-like substances on its cover or has brown, yellow, or gray color inside should not be eaten, as it might be moldy, officials warned.

Moldy sugar cane caused an online stir after one person pleaded for help on a microblog, saying that two of his relatives were hospitalized after eating sugar cane purchased from street vendors.

The netizen said in the post that one of the two patients was in a vegetative state. The post has been retweeted about 2,000 times on


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