You read it right, the Arabian delicacy has become a killer in Kerala. Though the unhygienic methods of preparing food items in the hotels isn't a big secret, officials got the wake up call only after a young man died from food poisoning. The 21 year old victim, a hotel management student had consumed shawarma from a hotel in Thiruvananthapuram on the way to Bangalore.Next day he fell ill and was later found dead. Two of his friends where hospitalised following severe food poisoning.
As customary, the incident caused a lot of stir in the media and among the people. The incident became the topic of discussions and debates. Everywhere in Kerala, startled people where seen discussing the matter in the, 'I knew this would happen one day' tone. My mom wasn't far behind. She gave me one hour lecture daily on my habbit of skipping meals at home and eating from outside. Anyway, Food Safety Wing decided to take notice atlast and declared a one week ban on shawarma in Ernakulam District. A chain of frenzied raids began with Food Safety Officers marching into hotels all over Kerala.
The next shock wave came with the startling discovery made by the Food Safety Department. Many of the hotels were functioning under highly unhygienic conditions. In one of the hotels, there was a toilet right in the kitchen and the whole kitchen was stinking with the smell of latrine. Many of the kitchens where filthy and the food materials where stale. Coloured food grains, unwashed utensils, meat with worms in it, excessive use of tastemakers including aginomoto.. the list of things found out by the Officials is horrifyingly long. Many hotels where shut down and many more where given notice to improve their condition within 14 days. If you thought all this was happening only in the small and medium scale hotels, you are wrong. Stale food was found in many of the star hotels too. Ironically, the officer who conducted the raids in star hotels, was given transfer the very next day. So much for responsibility and honesty!
Several actions were taken by the Food Safety Department to curb this issue.The Food Safety Commissioner called in the hotel owners for a meeting (which turned out to be a shouting match) and reminded them that the deadline for restaurants to obtain licence under the Food Safety and Standard Act 2011 was nearing and that strict actions would be taken against those who fail to obtain licence by then..Authorities also warned people from eating street food and said that they will not allow Shawarma counters to sell food made in the open without any protective covering .
Things dint stop there. It was now turn of hoteliers to protest. The Hotel Owner's Association protested against the raids by shutting down all the hotels for one day. The drama has ended for now.. Every one has gone back to their normal lives. The shawarma incident and the unhygienic condition of the hotels is slowly fading from the memory of people!Hope it doesn't fade away from the memory of the Officials. Routine checks by officials and enforcing the law strictly could have saved one life. At least from now on, I hope such incidents are prevented and that hotel owner's learn the seriousness of the issue and ensure that quality of food isn't compromised.