PETALING JAYA: Another four deaths have been linked to methanol poisoning, bringing the total number of casualties to 33.
Selangor has been the hardest hit with 20 fatalities, followed by Kuala Lumpur (10 deaths) and Perak (three) since the case came to light last Monday.
Most of the victims were Myanmar nationals (11 casualties), followed by Malaysians (nine). The rest were from Bangladesh, India, Nepal and Indonesia.
The identity of four victims remained unknown.
Health director-general Datuk Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah said in a statement last night that the ministry had conducted checks on 586 premises selling alcohol and found 1,816 bottles labelled with a variety of brands that did not meet the Food Act and Food Regulations 1985.
He also urged people who suspect that they have methanol poisoning to seek treatment.
“Those who have symptoms of methanol poisoning such as stomach ache, nausea, vomitting, headache, and blurred vision within five days of consuming alcohol need to seek immediate treatment at any clinic or hospital,” he added.
Meanwhile, Malaysia Crime Prevention Foundation senior vice-chairman Tan Sri Lee Lam Thye has called for sterner action on illicit alcohol.
He urged the authorities such as the Customs Department, police and local councils to conduct a crackdown on businesses selling such drinks.
“With the help from the Health Ministry and Chemistry Department, random samples should be taken and analysed to determine whether the liquor has been adulterated or it contains high levels of methanol,” he said in a statement yesterday.
“A mandatory jail sentence should be imposed on those who sell smuggled or adulterated alcohol.”
Existing laws, he said, should also be amended to curb alcohol sales as alcoholic outlets were mushrooming and operating with little regulation.
Lee attributed the methanol poisoning cases to a lack of control over alcohol sales as many shops were selling cheap smuggled or adulterated alcohol.
“The main reasons behind the cases are the adulteration of samsu, beer or liquor with cheap but poisonous methanol which is being commercially sold as methylated spirit.
“It baffles me as to why some of the liquor sold in our country contains methanol that exceeds the permitted level, as shown by an analysis done by the Health Ministry,” he said.