Tamil Nadu Health Minister Ma Subramanian has appealed to people to consider avoid eating Shawarma in the wake of news reports of adverse reaction experienced by some people after consuming it, and requested people to instead choose native cuisine. Inspections are on across the state in eateries selling Shawarma to ascertain if meat is properly stored as per freezing stipulations to ensure that it is not spoilt and to make sure that people get quality food.

So far, more than 1,000 such shops across Tamil Nadu have been inspected, he told reporters. Shops that do not have even basic facilities to store and sell such food items have been ordered to close, he said. An advisory has been issued to eateries in this respect and wherever warranted, fine has also been levied, he said, adding, “This drive on Shawarma shops will continue across Tamil Nadu.” This comes in the backdrop of a 16-year-old who died of food poisoning after eating Shawarma at a local eatery in Kerala’s Kasaragod district recently.

Besides, three students of a veterinary college in Tamil Nadu’s Thanjavur vomited and later fainted after consuming Shawarma at a local restaurant. All three students were hospitalized for treatment. Underscoring that Shawarma may not be suitable for the climatic conditions in Tamil Nadu and in some other parts of the country, Subramanian underlined the importance of proper freezing and storage of meat to ensure that it is fit for consumption.

“We have an appeal to the people. There are plenty of native food options for us. Rather than picking from such options, people should not spoil their health by choosing foreign origin food items like Shawarma or any other similar new foreign food,” he said while speaking to reporters on Sunday. Pointing to news reports of people getting ill after eating Shawarma, the minister said the food item is of foreign origin and generally more suitable for climatic conditions in specific countries like those experiencing low temperatures and a cool weather.

In such countries, the meat may not get spoiled even if it is stored in an open place, he said. Underscoring the tropical climate in the state, he said it is not advisable to always put the meat in a display box in the open and then cut it into smaller pieces to prepare the dish.

Proper freezing and storage facilities is a matter of concern, he said. As young people are fond of Shawarma, many eateries are selling it though they do not have proper freezing and storage facilities. “No one considers if this kind of food is suitable to our climate or if it is possible to ensure proper freezing and storage. Business is the only motive,” he said.

If not properly stored in a freezer, any kind of meat would get contaminated and it is not good for health, the minister further said. Hence, a drive is on across the state by food safety officials to ascertain if eateries selling Shawarma have proper freezer facilities and find out whether old meat is used for sale, he added.

Shawarma, a popular street food in many parts of the world, is considered to have originated in Turkey more than a century ago.

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