On July 10, 21-year-old Sachin Mathew, a hotel management graduate, before boarding his bus to Bangalore bought three ‘shawarmas’ from the Salwa restaurant located close to the Congress party headquarters in Trivandrum. On route to Bangalore he spoke to his mother and said that he was feeling ill. From the next day on there was no contact with the parents, and on July 14 they got a call from a hotel in Bangalore where he stayed, that their son had passed away. Incidentally, the same day thespian actor Thilakan’s son and his family also had ‘shawarmas’ from the same restaurant and they too fell ill and had to be admitted to hospital.
The incident led to huge uproar in the state against the health authorities, who now have swung into action and are conducting raids on restaurants across the state to check the quality of food sold in the market. A day later the health authorities sealed the hotel.
On the suggestion of food safety commissioner, police have registered a complaint against the owner of the restaurant.
Though samples of food from the restaurant have not been taken, the authorities are awaiting the medical reports on those who consumed this food item and were hospitalised. They have sealed three other eateries in the capital. Kerala authorities have begun extensive raids across the state after the first reports. The Centre has given time till August 4 to officials to brief owners of shops, restaurants and hotels on stringent provisions of the Food Safety and Standards Act. The drive covered shawarma outlets, hotels, restaurants, and food bunks along the areas near the GCDA Complex, KINCO boat jetty, Ernakulam North, and Palarivattom. A release issued by the Health standing committee of the corporation said that the drive revealed many incidents in which food products were found sold under highly unhygienic conditions, including exposure to dust from nearby roads and smoke emitted by vehicles.
Now there is a temporary halt for all restaurants serving shawarmas for upto a week for safety measures to be implemented. Action would be taken against those food businesses found to be operating without a license or registration and those found selling unclean or unsafe food will have to pay the penalty as well as other legal measures specified under the Food Safety Act. the Ernakulam District Collector signed an order today afternoon, banning Shawarmas cooked openly on road side. The order made as per Food Safety Act, now empowers police to close down every Shawarma Joints in the district and city, untill Food Safety Commissioner certifies the safety. As per Administration’s order, only shawarmas cooked within an enclosed glass chamber located inside a hotel premises, will only be allowed from now. So something that should have been implemented ages ago is now being forced as one youth has died and some were hospitalized. Great! But I also wonder if the ban would have been done if the victim had had local & traditional Indian food. What about the local thattukadas, pani puri outlets and open food stall?