Food poisoning death puts Kerala eateries on mat

It took the death by food poisoning of a 21-year-old to shake Kerala’s health authorities out of their slumber on the lack of basic hygiene in many eateries across the state.

In the past few days, some 50 establishments of varying sizes have been shut across the state for not following the minimum standards of basic hygiene.
All the 20,000 eateries across the state were shut on Saturday to protest the health department’s raids.

On July 10 last, 21-year-old Sachin Mathew, a hotel management graduate, bought three “shawarmas” from a restaurant located close to the Congress party headquarters before boarding a bus for Bangalore.

En route Bangalore that night, he rang up his mother and said he was unwell. From the next day on there was no contact with the parents and on July 14 they got a call from a lodge in Bangalore where he was staying that their son had died.

Also on July 10, the son of thespian Thilakan and his family also had “shawarmas” from the same restaurant and they also fell ill and had to be admitted to hospital.
A day later the health authorities sealed the restaurant.

The health authorities in Kochi have banned the sale of “shawarmas” for a week.
Kerala Hotel and Restaurant Association president Sudheesh Kumar  told that sales in hotels have dropped following the incident. The association had called for Saturday stir.

The Food Safety Department (FSD) of the state government has also opened a helpline and responses have started pouring in from the general public pointing to improper hygiene being maintained at eateries.

The authorities have asked the public to ensure that they keep a copy of the bill from the establishment where they ate as this would be crucial, in case compensation was sought.

“The raids began on Tuesday and by now we have checked 511 eateries and have served improvement notices to 133. These notices are in fact warning signals to the hotel owners that they have to improve their hygiene and, if not, they will be closed down permanently,” said a FSD official.

Thiruvananthapuram Mayor K Chandrika pointed out that following the implementation of the Food Safety and Standards Act last August, the civic body had lost to the state government the powers to rein in erring eateries.

“With this new law, the onus is on the state government and they have to do what has to be done. There is no point in blaming the corporation,” Chandrika of the CPM, said.

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