The reason behind Kerala shawarma-death of the 16-year-old has been identified as severe food poisoning caused by Shigella. This article explores - is shawarma healthy - by looking at the benefits of shawarma, the side effects of shawarma and whether shawarma is safe for pregnant women.
The state Health Department has identified the cause behind the death of a 16-year-old and the hospitalization of more than 50 people in Kerala who contracted food poisoning. Devananda, 16, died, and several others were hospitalized on 1 May after eating chicken shawarma from an eatery in Kasaragod, Kerala. According to Dr AV Ramdas, the bacterium responsible for the severe food poisoning was Shigella.
This is not the first time that shawarma has been the subject of controversy in the state. For example, the term 'shawarma death' became popular after a 21-year-old youth died after reportedly eating shawarma in 2012, despite officials clarifying that there was no trace of food poisoning in his body.
Meanwhile, three Tamil Nadu students who consumed shawarma and were sickened by food poisoning have been admitted to Thanjavur Medical College Hospital for treatment.
Amidst this news, this popular Levantine dish has received disrepute and with the cause, of course. However, this has urged we to explore more about shawarma, whether this crowd-favourite food item is healthy, and if eating shawarma can negatively affect your health. Let's take a look.
This article includes the following:
Shawarma is a popular street food in the Mediterranean, as well as in the Middle East. However, while this dish is quite delicious, it is high in calories.
Thinly sliced meats, like chicken, beef, goat, lamb, or turkey, are rolled up and layered with tahini sauce or hummus before being steamed or heated with flatbreads or pitas. Vegetables are also inside the pita, such as lettuce, , and pickles. Shawarma spices include coriander, allspice, turmeric, cinnamon, cumin, , and black pepper.
Note: All of the health benefits mentioned above depend entirely on the way the shawarma is prepared, that is, the ingredients used in its preparation.
According to food safety officials, shawarma is not the only food that can cause food poisoning. Any item prepared in an unhygienic state or stored improperly can cause infection.
is caused by organisms that form on decaying or old food items and release toxins. During summer, the food will decompose sooner in the heat, which increases the chances of this happening. Keeping food in the freezer or at low temperatures prevents the growth of organisms, thus preventing contamination.
According to safety standards, meat should be stored at 4°C for short-term storage and at -18°C or below for long-term storage. The meat must be consumed within two to four days if stored under normal chilling conditions (0 - 4°C). Meat stored at -18°C or below should be consumed within 10 to 12 months. To destroy bacteria, meat and foods must be cooked to a minimum temperature of 75°C.
Food items that have been contaminated with microorganisms produce toxins which, once consumed, cause symptoms to appear immediately. Bacteria may begin functioning inside the body after someone eats the food in the second scenario. In this situation, symptoms appear between 12 and 24 hours after eating.
Extreme diarrhoea can lead to severe dehydration and death, but the chances are very low in Kerala. Due to this, the experts were quickly able to link the student's death to that of the food she had consumed. The toxins caused by bacteria can enter the bloodstream and affect other vital organs. It can, for instance, cause myocarditis in the heart and encephalopathy in the brain.
Shawarma is rich in calories and should be avoided during pregnancy. Consuming this food during pregnancy is not recommended because of the high saturated fat content, which increases the level of cholesterol in the blood and increases artery thickening.
Healthy homemade rolls are a healthier alternative. To satisfy your craving for shawarma, prepare it at home and avoid unhealthy additions like sauces and mayonnaise.
Shigella can be prevented with basic personal hygiene and frequent handwashing.
After going to the bathroom, before preparing food, and after changing diapers, you should wash your hands carefully with soap. Small children and toddlers should be supervised when washing their hands.
Shigellosis can also be prevented by following these tips:
As experts pointed out, it's all about how the shawarma is prepared and what ingredients are used. Healthy preparation of shawarma would consist of using less or completely avoiding fatty/unhealthy sauces, especially mayonnaise, and also avoiding add-ons such as ketchup, excess oil, butter etc. Moreover, avoid daily/regular consumption.
Arya KrishnanEmergency Medicine MBBS