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Thu 16 Aug 2007 12:14 PM

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Family sues in Jordan salmonella scandal

Family of a man who died after eating a contaminated shawarma is taking legal action.

The family of a man who died after falling ill from eating a shawarma in a restaurant in Jordan has filed lawsuits against the restaurant’s owner and a hospital doctor who dealt with him before his death.

Bilal Jarwan, 23, was one of hundred of people struck down with salmonella poisoning after eating chicken shawarmas from a restaurant in the Baqaa refugee camp near Amman.

“The Jordanian judicial system is known for its integrity and we trust it will hold to account whoever was responsible for the death of my son,” said father Abu Ramzi told newspaper The Jordan Times.

The father said both his late son, Bilal, and other son, Ramzi, had fallen ill after eating the contaminated shawarma on Saturday and were then taken to the Al Hussein hospital in the town of Salt.

Abu Ramzi said he asked the emergency doctors to admit his sons, but they said it was not necessary, instead giving them both glucose injections and discharged them.

When he went to check on his sons the next morning at home, Abu Ramzi found Bilal unconscious and rushed him back to the hospital, where he was pronounced dead on arrival. He was laid to rest on Tuesday.

Over two hundred cases of food poisoning were reported in the salmonella outbreak, leading the Jordanian government to ban shawarmas across the kingdom.

The restaurant from where the outbreak originated, located around 27 kilometres northwest of Jordan’s capital, has now been closed and its owner and staff arrested. The owner is facing up to three years in prison and a fine.

Hospital response

Batool Abu Irsheid, head of Al-Hussain hospital’s emergency section, said the two brothers were among many patients who came to the emergency room after eating contaminated shawarmas.

“We dealt with all patients in the same manner and only critical cases were admitted,” Abu Irsheid told The Jordan Times.

Ali Hi Hiyasat, the director of Al Hussein hospital said Bilal had symptoms of salmonella bacterium, which needs 72 hours for recovery and does not cause death. A healthy individual can endure the disease without medication if he takes liquids to compensate for quantities lost due to diarrhoea, he said.

Bilal’s brother Ramzi, who also returned to hospital the day after he was discharged, was admitted to the intensive care unit for three days.

In the wake of the food scare scandal, Jordan’s health officials on Wednesday put forward a proposal that would oblige all shawarma restaurants to adopt an officially approved 'self-check' quality control programme as a prerequisite for the sale of chicken.

Under the proposal to deal with the shawarma case, a new committee at the Jordan Food and Drug Administration (JFDA) will require outlets selling the sandwiches to develop their own checklists that follow specific guidelines in compliance with food safety and hygiene standards.

Last year hundreds of people in Jordan were also struck down with food poisoning after eating shawarmas.

Following the outbreak, authorities began a campaign to clamp down on fast food restaurants not adhering to health and safety regulations.

Last month two ministers quit over the water contamination scandal in that has saw more than a 1,000 Jordanians needing hospital treatment.

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