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December 8, 2018

Food poisoning deaths: E coli bacteria found in meat samples taken from restaurant’s godown, SHC told

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December 8, 2018

KARACHI: Dangerous E. coli bacteria were found in the samples of imported expired meat seized from the godown of a private restaurant and food poisoning was the cause of death of the two minor siblings who died last month, the Sindh Food Authority told the Sindh High Court on Friday.

Filing a counter affidavit on the petition of a private restaurant owner against the sealing of his godown, SFA’s director submitted to the court that the owner kept 70 to 80 kilogrammes of expired meat at a godown situated at Zamzama DHA-V, and despite the fact that the meat had an expiry date of 2015, it was still kept in storage as of November 13 this year.

The food authority had sealed the godown of the private restaurant following the death of two minor siblings and hospitalisation of their mother in the city after consuming food from the restaurant, which likely made them sick.

The SFA official alleged that the owner used the same meat in his restaurant regularly which became the cause of death of the two children. He further said that the restaurant administration failed to provide invoices for the imported meat, total weight and its consumption and reasons for not disposing of the expired meat for the last three years.

SFA submitted that no law exists in any country or in Pakistan which allow expired meat or any other product to be used for three more years beyond the expiry date.

He submitted that laboratory tests conducted by the SFA showed that there were 5,400 colony-forming unit per gramme (CFU/G) of E. coli bacteria in boneless beef samples and 2,300 CFU/G of E. coli bacteria in beef ribeye lipon boneless meat imported from America.

He stated that the presence of E. coli in food generally indicates direct or indirect fecal contamination, whereas a substantial number of E. coli in food suggests a general lack of cleanliness in handling and proper storage.

According to the SFA official, the restaurant owner first denied the presence of any godown, which was later discovered after an intelligence tip-off, wherein the expired meat and bottles of squash were being transported after the incident. He said that the petitioner in violation of the food laws was running a business without registration and possessing valid license.

The SFA submitted that the restaurant owner did not come to court with clean hands nor the fundamental rights of the petitioner have been violated as SFA acted within the parameters of Sindh Food Authority Act 2016.

The authority’s director said a direct complaint against the petitioner is being adjudicated at the concerned trial court and matter of unsealing the premises was also pending before the trial court. He submitted that the Supreme Court has also taken suo motu notice with regard to the death of two children and the case is pending in court.

The counsel of the petitioner sought time to go through the counter affidavit of the SFA director to file a rebuttal.

An SHC division bench headed by Justice Mohammad Ali Mazhar asked the counsel of both parties to ensure the presence of experts on their sides to assist the court and adjourned the hearing till December 14.

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