9 Family Members Die After Eating Year-Old Homemade Noodles

Nine members of the same family died of food poisoning after eating a homemade noodle dish containing a deadly toxin.

The delicacy of thick noodles made from fermented corn flour sat in the family's freezer for "nearly one year" before it was prepared and consumed at the gathering on October 5, state newspaper China Daily reported.

Twelve relatives were present at the breakfast gathering in the county of Jidong in the northeastern Chinese province of Heilongjiang, but only nine more senior members ate the dish known as "suantangzi."

Three younger family members refused the food because of a "strange taste," the paper said.

All nine relatives fell ill in the hours following the meal, and eight were confirmed dead by October 11.

The last surviving patient, 47-year-old Li Hongyan, was placed in intensive care at the Second Affiliated Hospital of Harbin Medical University in the provincial capital.

According to Shanghai-based news website The Paper, Li's son confirmed that her mother was pronounced dead on Monday.

The incident drew much public interest and prompted investigations at provincial and state levels.

China's National Health Commission said traces of the respiratory toxin bongkrekic acid were discovered in the fermented noodle dish. The substance is produced by coconut or corn contaminated with the bacterium Burkholderia gladioli.

The toxin was also found in the deceased, allowing authorities to rule out foul play, local media reports said.

Similar food poisoning cases have been reported in 84 people, claiming 37 lives since 2010. There is no known cure to treat the poisoning, which has a case fatality rate of above 50 percent, the country's national health authority said in a statement.

The commission, along with health authorities at provincial and municipal levels, have put out multiple health notices advisings the public against cooking with fermented corn flour.

On China's Twitter-like microblogging service Weibo, a hashtag about the commission's warning has been viewed more than 470 million times at the time of writing.

In Indonesia, deaths associated with bongkrekic acid poisoning led to a government ban on the dish tempe bongkrek in the 1970s.

The illicit food, which originated on the central Indonesian island of Java, is made from soybean and coconut pulp. It was outlawed due to its tendency to become contaminated with Burkholderia gladioli.

China noodles
File photo: A dish of northeastern Chinese noodle delicacy suantangzi. Heilongjiang Health Commission