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Recent deaths in food poisoning case spark public fears

By Laila Azzeh - Oct 18,2014 - Last updated at Oct 18,2014

AMMAN — As Cerine Shawar and her three-year-old son Eziddin Oweiwi were laid to rest on Friday, the issue of health safety in local eateries became the “talk of the town”. 

The dentist and her son died last week after having burgers along with other family members at a restaurant at the Holiday Inn Resort Dead Sea.

Citizens from all walks of life voiced concern on Saturday over what they described as the food poisoning “phenomenon”, while officials called for “prudence” as the circumstances of the latest occurrence are still in the hands of the law.   

“Now that we know that food poisoning can take place in fancy places in Jordan, I don’t think I’ll ever eat at a restaurant without having doubts that the food might be unsafe for consumption,” accountant Jamal Rababa told The Jordan Times. 

Although the 38-year-old Amman resident could not recall having suffered food poisoning before, he noted that almost all his acquaintances have gone through it. 

Khawla Al Qarieb said she has a “phobia” about eating outside the house ever since she had food poisoning years ago after eating a shawerma sandwich. 

“I decided then to replicate famous restaurant recipes at home so that I don’t feel guilty because my kids don’t eat out,” the mother of two said. 

Acknowledging that he has becoming “more careful” now when choosing restaurants, IT company employee Alaa Barakat said people should not generalise, as there are “many clean and good places in Jordan”.

Consumer Protection Society President Mohammad Obeidat called on the public to wait for the results of the lab tests for Shawar and her son before pointing fingers. 

The test results, released later on Saturday, revealed that the leftover food taken from the family’s hotel room was contaminated. 

“We always cooperate with the Jordan Food and Drugs Administration [JFDA] in monitoring food outlets. Almost no day passes without issuing warning tickets or closing down restaurants,” he told The Jordan Times. 

However, Obeidat noted that citizens are also responsible for their own health and food choices. 

“People are still consuming expired canned food for instance, despite spending 20 years advising them not to,” he said, stressing that it is too early to accuse any party over the latest food poisoning incident as it is still under investigation. 

The restaurant connected to the food poisoning case was closed until the results of lab tests are out, according to JFDA Director General Hayel Obeidat. 

Shawar’s husband and eight-month-old daughter were discharged from hospital after receiving treatment for food poisoning, according to official sources. 

On Thursday, Amman Attorney General Ziad Dmour said Southern Shuneh Prosecutor General Mamdouh Alayeen had initiated an investigation into the incident, and issued orders to seal the family’s hotel room with their belongings.

Dmour said the bodies of the mother and son were referred to the National Institute for Forensic Medicine, and a committee of five experts was formed to take samples from the bodies to determine the exact cause of death.

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