200 hotels shut in crackdown on stale food after food poisoning death in Kerala

Around 60 persons took treatment at several hospitals after consuming the shawarma on April 30 from a cool bar in Cheruvathur in Kasaragod district. Later, tests confirmed bacterial infection triggered the severe food poisoning.

A week after a 16-year-old girl died in north Kerala after consuming stale shawarma, the government launched a crackdown on the eateries during which over 200 hotels were shut and large quantity of stale meat and fish was seized in a week-long operation across the state.

During the drive, over 500 kg stale meat and 6,000 kg fish laced with chemicals was seized in the state,”said a food safety official said, adding, “the checking drive will be intensified.” Last week, the high court had registered a case suo motu and asked the government and food safety officials to conduct regular examinations instead of acting only after a tragedy.

A Class 11 student, Devanandana, died on May 2 while undergoing treatment at the district hospital in Kanhangad. Around 60 persons took treatment at several hospitals after consuming the shawarma on April 30 from a cool bar in Cheruvathur in Kasaragod district. Later, tests confirmed bacterial infection triggered the severe food poisoning. Kasaragod district medical officer Dr A V Ramdas said shigella bacteria triggered food poisoning in the district. Shigellosis is an intestinal infection caused by the bacteria and is highly contagious, he said adding, it can spread by consuming stale food, unclean water, unwashed fruits and vegetables and closely interacting with shigella-infected person.

State health minister Veena George said, “As many as 1,704 inspections were carried in a week and the government will seal all the loopholes in the food safety rules.” Usually after raids, hotels pay up fines and re-open after a few days. “Food adulteration is a serious offence and the government will take strict action against offenders. We are also checking jaggery, milk, curry powder and cooking oil. Good food is the consumer’s right,” she said.

“Operation jaggery and operation malsya (fish) are in full swing. We have stepped up the vigil,” said the minister. Minister for local self government M V Govindan said food adulteration is equivalent to murder charges and the government will publish details of inspections regularly. “We will shut unlicenced eating joints and ensure quality food in street eateries also,” he said.

The government was left red-faced after the food poisoning incident as many posts in the food safety department were lying vacant. It decided to appoint 41 food safety officers within a fortnight.

During raid “tsunami meat” was also recovered from some places. Tsunami meat is a local name for meat and chicken leftover, including cattle head, chicken intestine and feather parts, which are sometimes mixed with fresh meat. Many a times, meat of dead cattle and chicken is added to it. Officials said while transporting cattle and chicken from neighbouring states many die due to suffocation, heat and long journey and carcasses are added to thhe tsunami meat. They said once it is minced and added with the fresh batch it becomes difficult to differentiate.

A few days back, a hotel in Thiruvananthapuram district was closed down by food safety authorities after a family found that food they bought from the hotel was wrapped in a paper containing parts of snake skin. Food safety officer Arshita Basheer said the hotel kitchen was in bad shape and did not have sufficient lighting. On Sunday another family was hospitalised in Thiruvananthapuram after consuming fish.

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