FAQ | Kerala Govt Issues New Rules for Shawarma Sale - What You Need To Know

The death of a 16-year-old from shigella poisoning after eating bacteria-ridden shawarma led to the new guidelines.

3 min read
FAQ | Kerala Govt Issues New Rules for Shawarma Sale - What You Need To Know

The Kerala government has issued new rules for the sale of shawarmas in restaurants and shops in the state, including the requirement of a licence.

The rules, which came into effect on Thursday, 1 September, were issued just months after the death of a 16-year-old from eating spoiled shawarma from a shop in Kerala's Kasargod on 1 May.

The incident also left at least 40 others, many students at a local school, hospitalised because of food poisoning. Samples were taken from those hospitalised at the Kozhikode Government Medical College and indicated that the poisoning was caused by shigella bacteria, the health department has said.

What does this mean for food safety in Kerala? Should you be wary of eating shawarmas in the state? And what exactly do the new rules say?


Why were the new rules about shawarmas released in the state?

As we mentioned earlier, the recent guidelines were implemented in response to the death of a 16-year-old girl named Devananda from Kannur, on 1 May.

The girl in question had fallen ill after consuming shawarma from a restaurant in Kasargod which was found to carry shigella bacteria. Shigella infection, also called shigellosis, can lead to severe diarrhea, bloody stool, fever, and in the worst case scenario, death.

But Devananda's death isn't the first incident of shawarma-related poisoning in Kerala. As far back as 2012, shawarma-related deaths have been reported in Kerala.

The death of a 21-year-old man, Sachin Roy Mathew, in 2012 was initially chalked up to eating rotten shawarma but was soon dismissed for a lack of evidence indicating food poisoning. The hospitalisation of another man in October the same year, allegedly also after eating shawarma, led to restaurants demanding a ban on the sale of the West Asian dish.


How does shigella spread? Can shigellosis be cured?

According to the US Centers for Disease Control, people can get a shigella infection if they put something in their mouth that has come into contact with faecal matter of someone with a shigella infection.

There's no vaccine or cure for shigella and the best protection from the bacterium is prevention. Preventive measures to avoid shigella poisoning include washing your hands with soap, and practising good hygiene .

State food safety officials have added that shawarma is not the only food item that can be a mode of transmission for shigella poisoning, and that any item prepared in an unhygienic condition or stored improperly can lead to infections.


What do the Kerala government's new guidelines on shawarma sales say?

The health department's order sets out the following food safety guidelines for selling shawarmas:

  • The shawarma's packaging/parcel packets must state the date and time it was prepared

  • The shawarma shouldn't be left outside/at room temperature for more than one hour

  • The mayonnaise and sauces used in the preparation must not be older than two days

  • The shawarma should be stored at a temperature of four degrees Celsius

  • The ingredients used must fit the quality standards required by the Food Safety Standards Authority of India (FSSAI)

  • If the shawarma has chicken, the chicken must be cooked for 15 minutes, and if it contains beef, the beef must be cooked for 30 minutes

  • The bread or kubboos should clearly mention a date of manufacture and expiry

  • Anyone who sells shawarmas in violation of these rules can be penalized with a fine of upto Rs 5 lakh as well as six months of imprisonment.


Has the Kerala government taken any other action apart from these guidelines?

The Kerala Police arrested three people including the manager of the Kasargod restaurant which had served the shawarma responsible for the death of 16-year-old Devananda. This included the manager, the managing partner, and the person who prepared the shawarma. The restaurant was also found to be in operation without the required licences and was sealed.

The police booked the three people for causing death by negligence, attempt to commit culpable homicide, and food adulteration, The News Minute reported.

Food safety officials in the state have also raided over 5,600 restaurants and shops serving the dish. 214 of these were found to be functioning without the requisite food licences and 165 of them were found lacking in hygiene. Every shop in the two groups was shut following the discovery.

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Topics:  Kerala   Shigella Bacteria   Shigella 

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