Greater Amman Municipality
Local media reported that the shawarma meal had been on special offer at half its normal price, resulting in a higher than normal number of diners. Image Credit: Reuters

Dubai: Jordan’s health authorities announced that expired meat and chicken was the main cause of the mass food poisoning reported in a chain of restaurants in Balqa governorate, local media reported on Sunday.

A five-year-old boy, who died of food poisoning, was one of 826 people hospitalised after eating shawarma at a restaurant in the Ain Al Basha area of north-west Amman on Monday evening.

The boy suffered heart failure and doctors were unable to save him, Mohammad Abed, the director of Prince Hussein Hospital, told local media.

Health Minister Sa’ad Jaber said laboratory tests showed bacteria in the meat and poultry products used to prepared shawarma meals. Results also found that the restaurants under question had used expired meat and chicken in the meals offered to their customers.

“Five tons of expired meat and a half ton of potato have been impounded, while 20 eateries have been shut in Salt, Suwaileh, Ain Al Basha, and one restaurant in Amman as a precautionary measure until lab results are issued ,” the health minister said.

Dr. Jaber issued instructions to form a crisis cell comprising the secretary general of the Ministry of Health, Director General of the Food and Drug Administration, Governor of Balqa, and representatives from the Ministry of Agriculture and Environment, the Director of Balqa Health, the Director of Communicable Diseases and the Attorney General. The cell will conduct further investigations.

Dr. Jaber also asked the attorney general to take all legal measures and hold accountable those who involved in the poisoning incident.

Health ministry official Adnan Ishaq said the meat had become rotten because it was not refrigerated, and laboratory tests had shown bacteria in the meat and poultry.

Local media reported that the shawarma meal had been on special offer at half its normal price, resulting in a higher than normal number of diners. The restaurant was reportedly running a promotional offer in which one shawarma cost one Jordanian dinar ($1.40), as opposed to 1.85 dinar ($2.61), leading to an increase in customers.