One child dead, 700 sick due to mass food poisoning in Jordan restaurant

Joanne Serrieh of Alarabiya reports a five-year-old child is dead and 700 other people have been hospitalized in Jordan with mass food poisoning after eating shawarma at a restaurant in the town of Ain al-Basha, north of the capital Amman, the Ministry of Health announced on Wednesday.

Investigations revealed that the meat and chicken shawarma had been prepared without using a refrigeration unit in an “unhealthy environment and without adhering to the health requirements and the minimum levels of general safety,” the official Jordan News Agency reported citing a ministry press release.

Laboratory tests also found that bacteria in meat and poultry products at the restaurant, according to the ministry’s statement.

The restaurant was immediately shut down following investigations and the restaurant owner is in police custody, AFP reported citing local media.

Dubai addressing shawarma risks

I’m on my way back to the US after a few days in Dubai teaching hotel, restaurant and other food business folks about stuff like sous vide food safety and measuring production parameters to reduce risk.

Bobby Krishna (below, left, exactly as shown), always the gracious host, showed me some cool stuff that Dubai is planning on launching as they prepare to host Expo 2020. One of the challenges the Dubai Municipality has tackled over the past decade as they modernize and add resources to their food safety system is balancing the traditional food stall/small business with addressing risks.

According to Gulf News, after a phase-in period, Dubai officials are enforcing new rules to make shawarmas safe again including proper facilities, temperature control and equipment sanitation.cwjw3kxxgaqy-q3

Almost 45 per cent of shawarma stands in Dubai will be closed, with Dubai Municipality enforcing its new rules for the sale of the popular Arabic delicacy in the emirate from November 1.

The six-month deadline given to 572 small and medium food outlets selling shawarma across Dubai to implement the new rules related to space, equipment and storage requirements aimed at enhancing hygiene and safety of the product ended on October 31.

Of these, only 318 have either made or are in the process of making the changes to their existing conditions as per the new guidelines to ensure the health and safety of consumers, the civic body said on Monday.

Sultan Ali Al Taher, head of Food Inspection Section at the Food Safety Department, said 146 establishments (25.5 per cent) among the 572 have completed the implementation of the new requirements before the deadline, 172 establishments (30.07 per cent) have begun the amendments and are still in the process of completing these.

The primary change that consumers can see will be the end of shawarma stands operating in an open area of an outlet. It is mandatory to move the shawarma stands indoors and ensure that they are not exposed to dust, dirt or any other external sources of pollution.

The regulations also make it mandatory to ensure proper refrigeration of raw materials, enough space for the storage of shawarma-making tools, separate facilities for defrosting frozen meat, thorough cleansing of vegetables and proper ways of waste disposal.

About a decade ago shawarma-style foods were linked to three outbreaks of E.coli O157 in Alberta, and I stopped eating them. Outbreak investigators found that traditional cooking practices including a rotating a cone of meat next to a heat source, were problematic, especially when the meat was cooked from frozen. A national committee was created to look at donair risks associated and the group recommended grilling post cone cut-off to ensure pathogen-killing temps.

New rules for Dubai shawarma shops coming up

New food safety rules for Dubai shawarma shops are expected soon and will cover the way eggs are used in mayonnaise for shawarmas as well as the space, layout, cooking, and storage standards for the outlet, among other points.

shawarma1013_1_portraitTheir comments came on the sidelines of the announcement of a campaign to train and educate some 4,000 food handlers in Dubai on food safety.

The campaign, run by the municipality and Unilever Food Solutions, was announced on April 7, World Health Day, which this year focused on food safety.

The shawarma rules could be implemented or announced by the end of April but it is understood outlets will be given a grace period to fully comply.

Shawarma, an Arabic meal made from shreds of grilled chicken or meat pieces rolled in pita bread, is one of the most common snacks enjoyed by Emiratis and expats.

The meat is piled up in boneless slices in a cylinder shape around a large central skewer rotated over a vertical grill.

Shawarma stands, attached to restaurants, are abundant in the UAE. They used to be found in the open air before officials directed they be moved indoors or confined in an enclosure.

On Tuesday, municipality officials said there was already an exhaustive Food Code available for all food outlets to help them comply with the hundreds of existing food safety rules to a greater degree.

Bobby Krishna, the department’s principal food inspection officer, said inspectors “occasionally find salmonella” contamination in shawarma shops and that some shawarma makers use raw eggs — susceptible to salmonella — instead of pasteurised eggs to make their own mayonnaise, which will not be allowed (Australia, are you listening?)

“If one person has an infected egg, one person falls sick. If you use that egg in mayonnaise — which will go into many shawarmas — many people will fall sick,” he added.

Chicken, the most popular meat used in shawarma, is another food source more commonly associated with salmonella infections than other foodstuffs.

“We are going very risk-specific. You don’t wait for food poisoning to occur. Shawarma by its nature is risk-prone. We occasional find salmonella; we found some unfit samples.”

He stressed however “we are not saying ‘don’t eat shawarma’.”