Initiating a PIL, the HC asked "how it could happen at all when strict enforcement and analytical regimes and systems are already in place under the Food Safety and Standards Act."

File image of the Kerala High Court building
news Court Thursday, May 05, 2022 - 09:01

After the tragic news of a 16-year-old girl's death and hospitalisation of 58 others due to suspected food poisoning in Kasaragod district, the Kerala High Court on Wednesday, May 4, initiated a public interest litigation (PIL) and asked the authorities concerned what steps they have taken or will take to ensure safe food is served to citizens by the eateries.

"We are, like every other citizen, appalled — not only of the terribly unfortunate turn of events, but pondering how it could happen at all when strict enforcement and analytical regimes and systems are already in place under the Food Safety and Standards Act, 2006," a bench of Justices Devan Ramachandran and PG Ajithkumar said while initiating a PIL on the issue. The court arrayed the Health Department and the Commissioner of Food Safety as parties and listed the PIL for further consideration on May 6.

The government told the bench that necessary investigations are going on and therefore, it was too early to draw any conclusions. The court, however, was of the view that such an incident should not happen again, especially since shawarma — which was suspected to have caused the food poisoning — is a popular food item in the state. The bench further said that while it was not going to speak specifically about the incident in focus or reflect upon the investigation into the matter, in the interests of the health of the citizens it considered it pressing to seek an answer from the authorities concerned regarding the measures taken or to be taken to ensure safety of the food served to people.

The health authority in Kasaragod, where the incident occurred, has attributed the suspected food poisoning to an outbreak of shigella bacteria after some of the patients, out of the 58, tested positive for it. Shigella is one of the leading bacterial causes of diarrhoea worldwide and is an intestinal infection caused by a family of bacteria. Some common symptoms of shigella infection are diarrhoea, abdominal pain, fever, vomiting, tiredness and blood in stool.

Read: Kerala shawarma food poisoning case: Deadly shigella the cause, says DMO

A 16-year-old student, Devananda, had eaten chicken shawarma from an eatery called Ideal Food Point in Neeleswaram in Kasaragod. However, soon afterwards, she passed away, sus[ectedly due to food poisoning, and 58 others were hospitalised for the same. After the death of Devananda, the Chandera police in Kerala arrested three people, including the manager of the restaurant, the person who made the shawarma on the day of the incident, and the restaurant’s managing partner. The owner, who lives in Dubai, has also been called for an investigation, police said. It was found that the restaurant was functioning without necessary licences and was sealed after the student’s death. Those arrested have been booked under sections 304 (death by negligence), 308 (attempt to commit culpable homicide not amounting to murder) and 272 (adulteration) of the Indian Penal Code (IPC).

Read: 18 people fall sick of suspected food poisoning in Wayanad, probe ordered

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