Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Jordan Bans Shawarma


Jordan banned restaurants across the kingdom from selling popular chicken "shawarma" sandwiches from Monday after more than 200 people were treated for salmonella-linked food poisoning.

"I took the decision in accordance with the law to ban the sale of chicken shawarma sandwiches until further notice," acting health minister Mohammed Zuneibat told a news conference.

The ban will be lifted after "the proper mechanisms are set up to ensure that this does not occur again," said Zuneibat, adding that around 600 fast food restaurants will be affected.

Dozens of people have been treated for food poisoning after eating salmonella-tainted sandwiches from a fast food restaurant in the Baqaa Palestinian camp northwest of Amman.

Zuneibat said that by mid-morning on Monday the number of those affected had risen to 206, blaming poorly cooked chicken which developed the salmonella bacteria that causes high fever.

The authorities on Sunday arrested the restaurant owner and the government opened an investigation, Zuneibat said.

Officials meanwhile insisted that a 23-year-old man who died on Sunday after eating a sandwich bought from the Baqaa shop had died of a heart attack.

"Salmonella did not have any direct relation with the death of Bilal Hassan. He had a heart condition and died of a heart attack," state coroner Momen Hadidi told AFP.

Shawarma sandwiches are very popular across the Middle East and made of lamb, beef or chicken meat which is packed into layers that are placed on a skewer that girates in front of a vertical oven.

Last year hundreds of Jordanians were treated for food poisoning after eating shawarma sandwiches, prompting the authorities to crack down on fast food restaurants.

Zuneibat has been acting health minister since the former health and water ministers resigned last month following the outbreak of hundreds of cases of waterborne diarrhoea and fever.

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