3 people hospitalised in Taiwan after mistakenly eating laundry products given as election freebies

According to one man, the liquids tasted "a bit bitter".

Brenda Khoo | January 10, 2024, 02:11 PM



At least three people were reportedly hospitalised after mistakenly eating the colourful laundry products that they received as election freebies in Changhua, Taiwan.

As part of Kuomintang (KMT) presidential candidate Hou Yu-ih’s election campaign, his Changhua campaign office gave out 460,000 laundry pods to households in the county, Central News Agency and Focus Taiwan reported on Jan. 6.

The packages were labelled as "laundry balls" and "capsules", with usage instructions reading: "One capsule can wash eight kilograms of clothes".

What was in it

According to photos by Taiwanese media outlets, the packages appear to contain two smaller transparent packets containing red and green liquids.

The products — which have been identified as "laundry balls", "capsules" or "pods" by different media outlets — aim to reduce the need for conventional detergents.

Liberty Times (LT) reported that the package contained usage instructions on both sides, including a line reading: "One capsule can wash eight kilograms of clothes".

It also read: "Vote for number three as president to support you,” referring to KMT's ballot position.

The other side of the package showed a photo of Hou and his running mate, Jaw Shaw-kong, LT added.

Image from 陳美合/Facebook.

Laundry product "felt like candy", tasted "a bit bitter"

A Facebook user took to social media to warn others about the pods in a post and claimed that "many people" mistook them for candies.

The post from "The big and small happenings of the people in Erlin” Facebook group claimed that people were sent to the hospital for colon cleansing.

Erlin is a town in Changhua county.

Another user commented that two of his relatives had consumed the products. He said that one was hospitalised, while the other vomited the entire night.

Erlin mayor Cai Shijie told LT that he visited an elderly man who also ate the product. The latter claimed that he could not read the words on the package as he was illiterate.

Cai said that this was the first time the man received such an election campaign product.

According to the man, the pods "felt like candy", and tasted "a bit bitter".

He began to vomit violently after eating the pods, and subsequently sought medical treatment, Cai added.

Affected seniors underwent gastric lavage

As of 8pm (Taiwan time) on Jan. 6, at least three people were confirmed to be hospitalised after consuming the pods, Hou’s Changhua campaign office said according to Focus Taiwan.

The report noted that an 80-year-old man and an 86-year-old woman, both surnamed Hung, were sent to a hospital on Jan. 5 after eating the laundry products.

They were discharged after receiving gastric lavage treatment.

LT reported that an 80-year-old man and a 76-year-old woman, both with the same family name Hung, separately underwent only gastric lavage as well as anti-emetics and enema at the same hospital on the same day.

It is unclear if these media sources were referring to the same people.

What the office said

On Jan. 6, the head of Hou’s Changhua campaign office, Hung Jung-chang, apologised for the incident, reported Focus Taiwan.

The head added that the office would be “disseminating information” that the laundry pods were not for consumption.

He also told reporters that the campaign office staff would visit the three affected individuals who were hospitalised.

According to Taiwan News, Hung claimed that distribution of these items had been completed, and they would not be produced again.

Nausea, vomiting, and diarrhoea are the most common effects of ingesting laundry detergent pods. Medical treatment should be sought immediately in such an incident.

The Taiwanese will head down to the polling booths on Jan. 13 to vote for their next president from one of the three contesting political parties – KMT's Hou, Democratic Progressive Party's William Lai Ching-te, and Taiwan People's Party's Ko Wen-je.

Top image from 中國國民黨 KMT/Facebook and 陳美合/Facebook.