KOZHIKODE: Translating to ‘turning’ in English, ‘shawarma’ is a popular, delicious street food found across West Asia. It has become ubiquitous in Kerala, too, thanks to the large number of people travelling to and from various parts of West Asia. The fast-food item that has been a favourite of non-veg lovers in the state now has become a villain with at least three persons dying after eating it. Experts in the food industry and health officials say they have always warned the public about the ‘dangers’ of shawarma, especially during summer.
Villain on a roll?
Health authorities have warned the public against having shawarma in summer. “Utmost care should be taken when eating such types of food, as the hot weather could aid bacterial growth,” said a health department official. In the recent Kasaragod food poisoning case where a girl died, the bacteria were identified as shigella (see article below). However, salmonella bacteria were the most common culprits in illnesses triggered by food, said Dr Rahul N, a general medicine expert at a private hospital in Kozhikode. “Shawarma is served with mayonnaise, which is one of the most likely foods that can cause poisoning as its made with raw eggs,” he added.
What causes food poisoning?
Student hospitalised in Kottayam
A 20-year-old paramedical student at Kottayam Government Medical College was admitted to the medical college hospital with symptoms of food poisoning after having shawarma from a shop near the college at Gandhinagar on Monday. The Thiruvananthapuram native developed uneasiness soon after she consumed the dish. Her condition was stable, according to hospital authorities.
The first alleged ‘shawarma death’ was reported in the state in 2012, in Thiruvananthapuram. Another person died in 2013 in Kozhikode. And now, a teenage girl in Kasaragod has become the latest victim. Death of a 21-year-old man in July 2012 in Thiruvananthapuram led to outrage and concerns over shawarma. In 2013, a 30-year-old Gulf returnee died in Kozhikode, allegedly after consuming shawarma from a beach stall, but health officials said the medical reports of the youngster had ruled out food poisoning from the shawarma. On May 1 this year, Devananda, 16, of Kannur, died after having shawarma from Ideal Cool Bar in Kasaragod.