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ARKIB : 28/08/2003

Investigate death linked to okra - farmers federation

KUALA LUMPUR Aug 27 - The Federation of Malaysian Vegetable Farmers Associations Wednesday urged the Health Ministry to investigate the death of a Negeri Sembilan woman after she ate some okra (lady's fingers) Tuesday.

Association president Tan Su Chow said the Health Ministry must investigate the death as many people believed it was the result of food poisoning.

"We hope the Agriculture Ministry will consider the matter seriously to avoid a negative perception of vegetables farmed by locals and to assure everyone that local produce is safe for general consumption," he said in a statement issued here.

He was commenting on the death of Mah Kiew @ Khiok, 60, Tuesday night at her home in Kampung Pasir Mas in Rantau, Seremban.

Three of her sons - Tan Sze Hock, 34; Tan See Leong, 33; and Tan See Choong, 31 - who also ate the okra were admitted to Seremban Hospital at 1 am and are reportedly in stable condition, he said.

The woman's youngest son, Tan Wee Lee, 21, said his mother vomitted and fainted a few times before she died at midnight. Her body was sent to the Seremban Hospital for a post mortem.

Her husband, Tan Chong Heng, 69, who also ate the okra, did not face any problem.

Tan said the death was inexplicable because food and agriculture experts have observed that the consumption of chemically-tainted vegetables does not result in death.

"This is a strange case and prior to a thorough investigation we cannot not make any presumption - that the death was caused by the consumption of the lady's fingers," he said.

However, he reminded all farmers to follow the guidelines issued by the Agriculture Ministry, including the practices on using chemicals to ensure safety of locally farmed food.

"On behalf of the association, we feel sad and remain grieved by this death," Tan said.

Meanwhile, the State Health Director, Dr Rosnah Ismail, Wednesday confirmed that Mah Kiew @ Khiok, 60, died of food poisoning.

The Federation of Malaysian Vegetable Farmers Associations earlier said the woman had died in her home at midnight Tuesday while three of her sons were admitted to Seremban after consuming okra, or lady's fingers.

Dr Rosnah said the confirmation was based on a post mortem on Mah Kiew.

Nevertheless, it's not clear where the poison originated.

"Samples of the food, water and other materials were taken from the family's home and sent to the Chemical Department for analysis," she said at the Seremban Hospital here.

Also present were the State Woman's Affairs, Community Development and Social Action Committee Chairman Datuk Norhayati Omar and the Seremban Hospital Director, Datin Dr Zailan Adnan.

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