July 12, 2011

Lebanese Myths about Food Poisoning Busted

After i watched this sad news on TV about the latest victim of food poisoning: a young man  on his day of  graduation , i thought of listing some of the Lebanese Myths or sayings about food , eating out poisoning cases.

A.    I got hit by the  " wind"  ( akhadet saf2et hawa)

You had dinner in a restaurant with your friends and spent the night back at home with nausea, followed by fever, vomiting and oh well, diarrhea.

You blame the AC in the restaurant or in the car or the air coming from the window in your room.

==>  There is no such thing in the medical terms that wind can cause these symptoms. EVEN IF YOUR MOM said that. It is what you got inside your body. It is what you ate. Face it.

B. Or Oh, I'll be OK.  It is just a 24-hour flu ( rashe7 khafeef)
There is no such thing as the 24-hour flu. It's food poisoning.

Food poisoning often produces the same symptoms as the flu, and we often never associate these symptoms with something we ate.

Part of the problem is that most people don't realize that it takes from 24 hours with salmonella to 72 hours with camphylobacter for you to get sick. Therefore, you often don't associate the illness with the food that you ate the day before.
Next time you have “this 24-hour flu”, think about what you may have eaten yesterday!

C. But noone of my friends got poisoned and they ate from the same restaurant!!! ( Bass ma 7ada Tsammam ghairi!!)
Well, it is not necessary that all of you get poisoned especially if each one is ordering different plates.

And even if you ate from the same plate, the bacteria or a toxin doesn’t have to be all over the plate which implies ,that yes, you can be the only one poisoned!

D.  We , the Lebanese are invulnerable to food poisoning. ( Na7na 3anna mane3a mabtefham)
We can eat "Kebbeh" ( raw meat) as much as we want and nothing can happen to us.

 Please, put an end to your Lebanese ego. You realize that immunity is only against pathogens. So I agree, we might have immunity against pathogens ( bacteria ) but what about bacteria that producing toxins.

You do realize that toxins dont cause an immune system memory.

So, even a microliters of a toxin in food produced by a bacteria can cause breathing shortage, paralysis or even death within few hours.

E.  Nothing will happen to my pregnant wife when eating outside. ( W iza Marteh 7ebleh)
Pregnant Women SHOULD always take care when eating outside. For example, they should NEVER order icecream.Icecream ( even in winter) is a host for a bacteria called Listeria monocytogene that can cause still birth, miscarriages and abortions.

Pregnant woman: please dont eat from these open buffets if you are invited to a wedding.

F.       Marinated meat is free of germs because they are killed by the alcohol in the wine  or spices that are used in the marinade.

Alcohol is not an efficient sanitizer to begin with. The alcohol is diluted by the juices from the raw meat and so has no real effect on the microbes growing in the raw meat.
Plus, even if you drank alcohol or arak with your food. Alcohol doesnt kill the bacteria in your stomach.
Another thing, Microbes have no taste buds. Spices taste hot to us, but have no influence on microbes. The only "heat" that will destroy them is thermal heat of 75 degrees Celsius or higher.

G. Foodborne illness is no big deal. After all, even if I get it, it's just a temporary mild discomfort. I'll get over it. ( Ma ishbneh shi wlo kam youm w bso77)
The sad fact is that food borne illness can be very serious, even deadly. Some pathogens ("bugs" that cause foodborne illness) give rise to diseases far more serious than the uncomfortable vomiting or diarrhea accompanying what most people call "food poisoning." Foodborne infections can cause spontaneous abortion, reactive arthritis, Guilliain-Barre syndrome (the most common cause of acute paralysis in both children and adults), and HUS (hemolytic uremic syndrome), which can lead to kidney failure and death.

Bottom  Line:  I am not saying this to cause a public infuriation or what we call “ Outrage”, which in some cases is based merely on feelings of anger & rage. But there are certain risks that we have to be aware of and admit that they are occurring.

We, the Lebanese people are not supermen neither do we have super anti-pathogenic powers that distinguishes us from other kind of people living around the globe. DEFINITELY, we can’t stop eating out, it’s from our Habits. But here is what you can do to avoid a food poisoning incident to you or to any of your family members or friends:

1- Take care when you eat. Choose well cooked meals rather than raw.

Rare cooked steaks are not hazardous, you can order that. However, order well done burgers but never medium rare.

2- Choose a clean restaurant. How to know?
Certain restaurants have the HACCP approved certificate and ISO 2200 around their counter. Have your eyes on these certificates. They are indicators of how much restaurants follow the safety and quality control principles
3- Ask about the source of water in the restaurant especially for Ice. Most restaurants freeze ice from tap water. If you have children with you, this is a serious issue.

4- Don’t be afraid to check with the manager, about the kitchen. It is your right as a customer to know the quality of what you are eating.

It is the same as choosing a product in the supermarket. You wouldn’t choose the cereal with an open package, or milk with an expired shelf life would you??
What is the difference between this and ordering a salad that is not cleaned properly or a sandwich handled by unhygienic hands?


  1. But getting sick from cold air is a real thing. Food poisoning is as well but just saying :)

  2. But getting sick from cold air is a real thing. Food poisoning is as well but just saying :)