Salmonella in Lebanon

Salmonellosis is a disease that represents a major public health concern in both developing and developed countries. The aim of this article is to evaluate the public health burden of Salmonella illness in Lebanon.

Beirutfood00021416331986The current scope of the Salmonella infection problem was assessed in relation to disease incidence and distribution with respect to age, gender and district. Factors that provide a better understanding of the magnitude of the problem were explored and highlighted. Data reported to the Epidemiologic Surveillance Department at the Lebanese Ministry of Public Health between 2001 and 2013 was reviewed. Information obtained was compared to information reported regionally and globally. The estimated true incidence was derived using multipliers from the CDC and Jordan.

A literature review of all published data from Lebanon about Salmonella susceptibility/resistance patterns and its serious clinical complications was conducted.

The estimated incidence was 13·34 cases/100 000 individuals, most cases occurred in the 20–39 years age group with no significant gender variation. Poor and less developed districts of Lebanon had the highest number of cases and the peak incidence was in summer. Reflecting on the projected incidence derived from the use of multipliers indicates a major discrepancy between what is reported and what is estimated. We conclude that data about Salmonella infection in Lebanon and many Middle Eastern and developing countries lack crucial information and are not necessarily representative of the true incidence, prevalence and burden of illness.

Salmonella burden in Lebanon

Malaeba1, A. R. Bizria1a2 c1, N. Ghosna3, A. Berrya4 and U. Musharrafieha1a5

a1 Faculty of Medicine, American University of Beirut, Beirut, Lebanon

a2 Division of Infectious Diseases, Department of Internal Medicine, American University of Beirut Medical Center, Beirut, Lebanon

a3 Epidemiological Surveillance Department, Ministry of Public Health, Beirut, Lebanon

a4 Communicable Diseases Department, Ministry of Public Health, Beirut, Lebanon

a5 Department of Family Medicine, American University of Beirut Medical Center, Beirut, Lebanon

Epidemiology and Infection, Volume 144, Issue 8, June 2016, pages 1761-1769, DOI:

You don’t like our meals, we’ll make the meals, safe

The Syndicate of Restaurant Owners is mobilizing to provide Lebanon’s eateries with better information and training in order to improve food safety. A new initiative to improve food safety standards is now in progress across the country.

soprano.foodOn May 15, at the Mir Amin Palace in the Chouf, the syndicate presented a comprehensive plan to promote food safety, in collaboration with Boecker and GWR Food Safety.

Aref Saade, the syndicate’s treasurer, told The Daily Star that implementation of the plan has been in the works for some time. The group began planning the initiative a couple of years ago, but work was halted for a time.

But following a nationwide crackdown by Health Minister Wael Abu Faour last November, efforts to implement the program began anew.

“In Lebanon for the past 50-60 years there has not been legislation – we don’t have new things … we are still using old legislation with regard to health and with regard to food. [But] there have been big developments and [there is more] pollution worldwide,” Saade said, adding that these days people are more likely to be exposed to viruses and bacteria.

The plan’s program focuses on three main things: food safety, insect and pest management, and customer service.

E. Lebanon shop owners attack health inspector, reporter

The owners of a supermarket in east Lebanon attacked a Health Ministry inspector and a journalist Saturday during a food safety visit. statement said the owners of al-Meis supermarket in Bar Elias attacked the expert who went to inspect food safety conditions inside the shop.

They also assaulted a reporter who called them out for trying to sneak expired foods out of the shop once the inspector arrived, the statement added.

Media not paying attention in Lebanon so police to begin raiding non-compliant restaurants

Minister Wael Abu Faour announced Wednesday a new strategy to refocus the media’s attention on his food safety campaign: raids.

media.scoopThe ministry will order a food shop or factory found to be selling contaminated food to stop. If they don’t, the ministry will ask security forces to hit them with raids and shut down their shops, Abu Faour explained.

The minister said his new plan comes as a result of a decline in the media’s attention to his campaign launched in November.

In the first couple weeks of the campaign, he had showered the media with praise, attributing their close coverage of the contaminated food scandal to the success in getting them to shape up.

Many newspapers used to reproduce the lists of food safety violators that Abu Faour had named during his televised press conferences, sometimes with front-page features. But in the past few weeks, media have dedicated less attention to the campaign.

And since media have stopped publishing the list of violators, blacklisted establishments have begun showing little interest in making sure their products meet standards, Abu Faour said.

Food tester: Lebanon tests smelly food sent to Syrian refugees

Health Ministry inspectors confiscated Saturday large quantities of food distributed to Syrian refugees in south Lebanon after receiving complaints that they were emitting foul odors.

Become-a-Taste-Tester-Step-5The food packages, which were donated to Syrian refugees through the Rahma and Ouzai charity centers in Sidon, were confiscated for testing, while Abu Faour referred the case to the judiciary.

Separately, the minister sent the ministers of finance, economy and public works a letter to demand the confiscation of large amounts of sugar stored in Tripoli’s port.

The request was based on skepticism that the sugar met safety standards.

Food safety in Lebanon: Moral deterrent doesn’t exist among some traders

Public Health Minister, Wael Abu Faour, visited on Wednesday Justice Minister, Ashraf Rifi, at the Ministry of Justice in presence of General Prosecutor, Judge Samir Hammoud.

UnknownAbu Faour said that the meeting majorly focused on the ongoing communications and efforts between the Ministry of Health, the Ministry of Justice, and the judicial body, over the best means to fight corruption.

“It’s true that we have launched an anti-corruption campaign, but we must also fight corruption across all the Lebanese state. Anti-corruption means reform, and reform cannot be without the existence of an active judicial body because it is the biggest deterrent. With every food safety campaign, there was an active response from the judiciary. Perhaps things took some time to launch the campaign at the judicial level, but it was finally activated and we are dealing with the major files seriously,” Abou Faour 

Fresh start for Lebanon restaurants with focus on food safety

From shawarma spots to fine dining restaurants, the Health Ministry’s sweeping crackdown on food safety has, at times, been tough to stomach. Establishments cited for hygiene issues are dusting themselves off and moving forward with a stricter eye on safety measures and suppliers. Restaurant managers say that despite the negative publicity, they have been able to stay in business.“We still have the same customers, the same people who always come,” said Malak al-Batata manager, Wassim Shaar.

The casual dining mainstay in Hamra was closed by the Health Ministry for nearly a week due to general hygiene issues and the need for renovation.

Shaar said that renovations to the kitchen floor had already been in place several months prior to the restaurant’s citation and subsequent closure.

“I told [the inspector] I need 15 days to renovate,” he said. “I was surprised that, three days later, they closed the restaurant.”

He said he consulted with food and hygiene company Boecker to improve food safety standards, and the restaurant has since re-opened with a closer watch on hygiene.

The Daily Star spoke to several establishments that were publicized for food safety violations. Many were reluctant to speak for fear of attracting further attention.

Beginning in November, Health Minister Wael Abou Faour publicized the names of more than 1,000 restaurants, supermarkets, slaughterhouses and farms for unsatisfactory food sampling or inspection results. Some were shut down, pending required improvements and standards. Many were cited for unsafe meat and dairy products.

Fine dining establishments weren’t exempt from the campaign. Zaitunay Bay’s upscale seafood restaurant, Karam al-Bahar, was cited for its soujouk, raw fish, makanek and shrimp. 

‘Accepting and turning blind-eye to violations must end’ Changing food safety culture in Lebanon

Ministers stressed on Saturday their support to the food safety campaign waged by Health Minister Wael Abou Faour, considering it a necessity to end the chaos in Lebanon.

hassan-bahsoun-(3)“Establishing a food safety association would end such a crisis on the long term,” Agriculture Minister Akram Shehayeb said during a meeting between several ministers and the Economic Committees at the Chamber of Commerce Industry and Agriculture in Beirut’s Hamra area.

“Minister Abou Faour created a positive shock through his campaign,” Environment Minister Mohammed al-Mashnouq told reporters.

He stressed that all violators should be held accountable.

“The stance adopted by Abou Faour isn’t personal,” Mashnouq said, pointing out that the culture of accepting and turning a blind-eye to violations must end.

For his party, Tourism Minister Michel Pharaon, who previously rejected the health minister’s tactics in announcing the names of institutions violating food safety measures via new conferences, said that “Abou Faour’s measures shed the light on a huge problem.”

Economy Minister Alain Hakim said that the “state has long neglected the food safety case,” warning that the scandal will have an impact on the country’s economy.

Industry Minister Hussein al-Hajj Hassan called on ministers not to point fingers regarding the food scandal but to assume responsibilities in order to reach integration.

Abou Faour vowed to continue the campaign, stressing that “protecting citizens doesn’t oppose the country’s economy.”

Authorities Friday shut down more slaughterhouses, restaurants, supermarkets and other retailers selling contaminated food as part of a crackdown launched last week on food establishments violating safety and sanitation standards.

Tripoli’s slaughterhouse was closed Friday by the Internal Security Forces in line with a decision taken by north Lebanon Governor Ramzi Nohra.

The decision came after he received a Health Ministry report listing changes that needed to be made for the slaughterhouse to conform to health standards.

The report said livestock must be hanged during slaughter and not laid on the ground and that the abattoir should also be equipped with refrigerators and storage units to separate meat.

Health minister: Lebanon’s food ‘dipped in diseases and microbes’

The list read like a who’s who of Lebanese eateries – Hawa Chicken, Spinneys, Roadster Diner and dozens of others – but this was no recognition of Lebanon’s famed cuisine: Tuesday afternoon the health minister named and shamed establishments across Lebanon serving unsafe food.

hawa.chicken“The Lebanese citizen’s food is not only dipped with sweat, but also in diseases and microbes,” Abu Faour said during a news conference at his ministry. “The Lebanese does not know what he eats, and it will be a disaster if he knows.”

The minister revealed that numerous supermarkets, bakeries, butchers and restaurants had been violating food safety standards, according to the results of the inspection campaign done by the ministry over the last 20 days.

Among the famous supermarkets that were named by Abu Faour were Fahed Supermaket in Jounieh, Hawa Chicken, Spinneys in Jbeil, Abou Khalil in Damour, Metro in Baaba, MP in Aley and TSC Mega in the Metn area.

Other notable places mentioned were Roadster Diner for chicken breasts, Bedo for sausages, Makaneq for soujok, and Al-Hallab sweets shop in Tripoli for Ashta.

“The purpose is not to distort the image of any companies,” Abu Faour repeated several times during the conference. “But we have a responsibility toward the citizens.”

Food safety in Lebanon: experts emphasize need for measures after scandals

Lebanon is in need of effective food safety measures in light of the series of food scandals that the country has witnessed, ministries and experts say.

The Lebanese food industry is rife with serious issues, said AUB Professor Zeina Kassaify. “Mislabeling is the key issue and the fact that we don’t have proper law or enforcement mechanism.”“Part of the law says we should be monitoring. … In the U.S. they have the FDA. If they find something that is not up to standard, they penalize people. Here it’s not like that, someone says something on TV and everyone gets outraged without there being any credibility.”

Pierre Abu Nakhoul, an engineer with the Industry Ministry who also carries out inspections, said a lack of resources had hampered monitoring efforts. The ministry must follow up on certain food safety aspects with 2,000 food companies. With the available staff, it could check up on 5-10 each day.

Furthermore, about 30 percent of those food companies are operating without permits, an issue that has also affected food safety monitoring.

The real problem is the overlapping authorities of different ministries with respect to monitoring food processing activities, according to Mounir Bissat, president of the Syndicate of Food Industries.