Sunday, March 19, 2017


Egypt’s huge food poisoning incident of a few days ago sickened 3,353 school children and sent 3,300 to the hospital. The school lunch is clearly suspect as all the children who became ill ate it. What a horrible experience for the poor teachers and the schools – all these children with vomiting and diarrhea. They are probably still having nightmares about it.

So far the causal agent or specific lunch item has not been identified. I would lay my money on norovirus. One reason I suspect norovirus is because the symptoms are typical. Another is that norovirus was also suspected in one of the food poisoning outbreaks at Al-Arbak University in Cairo in 2013 and is quite common in such mass meal programs all over the world (see next post).

In all, Egypt’s food has had a bad run of luck over the last few years and it is commonly known that national hygiene in food processing, packaging, preparation and food service is poor. The world is beginning to wonder whether it is safe to eat at all, particularly since it has caused havoc overseas as well as domestically.

The worst case of such exported food was that large outbreak of E. coli 0104 food poisoning which originated in Northern Germany in 2011. It made some 4,100 people ill, mainly in Europe, and killed at least 50. After many false turns by investigators, it was finally traced to fenugreek seeds imported from Egypt that had been sprouted in Germany (see the several posts on this blog).

You may also recall the Salmonella-contaminated organic celery seed that originated in Egypt. I had to pat myself on the back for predicting correctly on this blog that these seeds had been imported from Egypt.

Then over the last few months there has been that Hepatitis A problem with frozen strawberries imported from Egypt, which were used to make not-so-healthy smoothies in the U.S. They have given 143 unsuspecting people in 9 states a dangerous liver disease.

Of course, this isn't the end of the list.


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