In food-crazed Lebanon, a war over messed-up meze

Lebanese people are proud of their cuisine and specially their Meze, but the recent food scandal is messing up their world famous Meze
Lebanese people are proud of their cuisine and specially their Meze. But now they are worried   that the food importers, traders, supermarkets and restaurants  are messing up their world famous Meze

When it comes to cuisines of the Arab world, perhaps none other is as internationally recognizable — and mouthwatering — as Lebanon’s.

There is more than a little pride here over the tangy fattoush salads, delectable mezes and dishes of skewered chicken and lamb that have distinguished this tiny Mediterranean nation as a culinary powerhouse.

Which helps explain the shock and furor that erupted over recent findings that food offered at scores of Lebanon’s restaurants, supermarkets, bakeries and butcher shops is tainted with not only bacteria such as E. coli and salmonella but also sewage and fecal matter.

The revelations were the result of a sweeping investigation, led by the Health Ministry, into food-industry hygiene. Wael Abu Faour, the health minister, did not sugarcoat the findings when he announced them at a news conference last week.

“The Lebanese don’t know what they’re eating, and it would only be worse if they knew,” he said.

In excruciating detail, he named and shamed popular eateries and supermarket chains as public-health offenders. Their infractions included selling expired meat and using rusty cooking utensils and months-old frying oil. Germs also abounded in restaurant kitchens and supermarkets, said Abu Faour, who singled out an unspecified business for selling food containing traces of human feces.

“The Lebanese are eating food dipped in sweat and covered with diseases and microbes,” he said.

The findings — which emerged from a 20-day campaign in which thousands of food samples from 1,005 businesses were tested — have proved explosive.

“Lebanese consumers learn they are eating [s—],” read a headline last week in the newspaper al-Akhbar.

Pop stars have weighed in. In apparent solidarity with one of the cafes found to be dishing out contaminated chicken breasts, one popular singer posted a photo on her Instagram account of a chicken burger and potato wedges from that eatery.
One might expect the scandal to be a sideshow to Lebanon’s more pressing problems. The country’s economy has been hobbled by an influx of more than 1 million refugees from Syria. The raging Syrian civil war, meanwhile, has badly divided Lebanese society and fueled attacks by militants.
Yet Lebanese officialdom has jumped on the food scandal, with the economy minister accusing Abu Faour of “terrorizing” local businesses.

“It’s all political theater,” Wassim Chaar, the manager of the Malek el-Batata restaurant in Beirut, said by telephone. Malek el-Batata was closed last week over hygiene problems, but Chaar insisted that the eatery, popular for shawarma, falafel and hamburgers, was “absolutely clean.”

Abu Faour was dismissive of the criticism about his investigation.

“It’s a jungle!” he said in a telephone interview, referring to the brickbats directed at him. “But the people have a right to this information.”

He also has vowed to expand the scrutiny to drinking water and to cosmetic surgery clinics, another prominent industry here.

Abu Faour, who has received a torrent of support on Twitter and Facebook, appears to have tapped into national frustration over a sectarian-based political system with chronically weak state institutions. Factional squabbles have left the presidency vacant for five months, and electricity production has flagged, forcing much of the country to rely on generators to keep the lights on.

When it comes to food quality, many Lebanese have long suspected that eateries and supermarkets are being allowed to cut corners. “Every time my cousins visit from Canada and France, they get food poisoning,” said Riham el-Hage, 22, a business student at the Beirut-based Lebanese American University.

 

Washington Post

  • arzatna1

    Poor Lebanese , what are they going to eat with their Arak

    • 5thDrawer

      I got through it without a problem over two months … but then, being one of the slightly smarter Canadians who pays for all the ‘recommended shots’ beforehand, and takes a ‘Montezuma’s Revenge’ kit with him just in case, I was hoping for the best, and had it. With Leb wine AND Arak. :-)))
      Happy I didn’t feel I needed any ‘Beauty Treatments’. 🙂
      http://www.dailystar.com.lb/News/Lebanon-News/2014/Nov-20/278322-medical-associations-warn-against-unlicensed-beauty-centers.ashx#axzz3Jck9v6QP

      Aside from that, the electricity problems only add to the mix of germs on hands, when food can’t be kept refrigerated – especially in homes. In Tripoli it’s a real bitch when bullets are flying, and you need to hope what you bought a few days before will get you through to the next mad dash to a store.
      At some point, it’s hard to cut around all the mould on a piece of bread and still have a mouthful.
      Oh yah … wash the veggies ?? IN THAT WATER? :-))))

      Is everyone buying good vinegar to wipe tables down with?
      I know one thing … especially since ASSad started his war … the friends there have bad cases of the shits more often than I care to think, and THAT cuts their health ‘resistance’ scores down a LOT.

      • arzatna1

        I don’t worry about electricity , because I have my own Gen set in Lebanon
        I don’t worry about the water because I have my own RO system
        I don’t worry about salmonella in meat products because I haven’t eaten raw Kebbe ot Tartar steaks for years and when you cook the meat the salmonella disappears
        What I worry about is E-Coli, not only in Lebanon but all over the world . I worry to death when I am at the restroom of the Restaurant and see cooks head straight from the bathroom to the outside door without washing their hands with soap and water

        • 5thDrawer

          We all should worry about it. Cudos to Faour for bringing up the subject. Each generation needs to be re-taught a few things.
          (nice that you have money for pay for the gas to run a generator … or own one)
          (maybe some day you will have the money to get a solar panel, since RA hasn’t raised the engery price in centuries. 😉 )

          • Hind Abyad

            Order Lebanese food from Quebec, the best, home made Lebanese food.
            They are a lot of Malek al Batata (but they’re not Lebanese).

          • MaImequer0

            OOOHHH, there are about 514 restaurants there.. I reccomended a good one to you before. Still activisting eh sweetie? Day & night 24/7?

          • Hind Abyad

            You’ve been publishing my regional code number in public for years..sweetiieee..(reccomended)?

          • MaImequer0

            Oh yes, that so-called ‘code’ to your private regions…. lol sweetie….

          • Hind Abyad

            MaImequer0 – Hind Abyad – 12 hours ago-

            Oh yes, that so-called ‘code’ to your private regions…. lol sweetie….

            Reply

          • MaImequer0

            luv your mustache sweetie… it looks like your hero.

          • Hind Abyad

            You’re as ugly as Zionism, you look like a gangster..and your prose..oh..how stupid hhhhh.. as Einstein said, the only thing as infinite as the Universe is Human stupidity.. Howie..

          • MaImequer0

            Maybe Einstein was right… look at you…. daft mare☻

          • Hind Abyad

            Yes, Albert Einstein was right, look at you and Zionism collective mental disease.
            LETTER TO THE EDITORS OF NEW YORK TIMES:1948
            (1 of 3 pages)

            Among the most disturbing political phenomena of our times is the emergence in the newly created state of Israel of the “Freedom Party” (Tnuat Haherut), a political party closely akin in its organization, methods, political philosophy and social appeal to the Nazi and Fascist
            parties. It was formed out of the membership and following of the former Irgun Zvai Leumi, a terrorist, right-wing, chauvinist organization in Palestine.

            The current visit of Menachem Begin, leader of this party, to the United States is obviously calculated to give the impression of American support for his party in the coming Israeli elections, and to cement political ties with conservative Zionist elements in the United States.
            Several Americans of national repute have lent their names to welcome his visit. It is inconceivable that those who oppose fascism throughout the world, if correctly informed as to Mr. Begin’s political record and perspectives, could add their names and support to the movement he represents.

            Before irreparable damage is done by way of financial contributions, public manifestations in Begin’s behalf, and the creation in Palestine of the impression that a large segment of America supports Fascist elements in Israel, the American public must be informed as to the record and objectives of Mr. Begin and his movement.

            The public avowals of Begin’s party are no guide whatever to its actual character. Today they speak of freedom, democracy and anti-imperialism, whereas until recently they openly preached the doctrine of the Fascist state.
            It is in its actions that the terrorist party betrays its real character; from its past actions we can judge what it may be expected to do in the future.

            Attack on Arab Village
            A shocking example was their behaviour in the Arab village of Deir Yassin. This village, off the main roads and surrounded by Jewish lands, had taken no part in the war, and had even fought off Arab bands who wanted to use the village as their base. On April 9 (THE NEW YORK
            TIMES), terrorist bands attacked this peaceful village, which was not a military objective in the fighting, killed most of its inhabitants (240 men, women, and children) and kept a few of them alive to parade as captives through the streets of Jerusalem. Most of the Jewish community
            was horrified at the deed, and the Jewish Agency sent a telegram of apology to King Abdullah of Trans-Jordan.
            But the terrorists, far from being ashamed of their act, were proud of this massacre, publicized it widely, and invited all the foreign correspondents present in the country to view the heaped corpses and the general havoc at Deir Yassin.

            -.. details Einstein didn’t mention for their barbarism, Irgoun gangsters cut women fingers for the gold.. –

            The Deir Yassin incident exemplifies the character and actions of the Freedom Party.

            Within the Jewish community they have preached an admixture of ultra nationalism, religious mysticism, and racial superiority. Like other Fascist parties they have been used to break strikes, and have themselves pressed for the destruction of free trade unions. In their stead they have proposed corporate unions on the Italian Fascist model of Mussolini

          • guest

            Really !???

          • guest

            Are you saying she is ugly !?

          • Hind Abyad

            This is what you quarter of a man scribbled moustache on.. ha ha ..it’s not me but as i always said; Zionism is a mental disease, seams I’m being vindicated by history :))

          • MaImequer0

            You’re a zionist? How funny sweetie…☻

          • guest

            Well said !!!

          • guest

            Really !???

          • guest

            Really !??

          • guest

            What else can a hypocrite Lucifer rattlesnake do !?

    • Hannibal

      They should turn to Cannibalism… It will solve the problem 😉

  • 5thDrawer

    NONE of any of this ‘infrastructure’ of a country should be in the hands of ANY religious ‘body of thought’.
    They can’t break free of year ZERO in the handling of evolutionary changes on the planet.
    AIDS and EBOLA may be the ones ‘highlighted’ in HUGE discussions on health – but there ARE many others.
    And things which effect ALL humans can’t be avoided by praying.

  • anna

    i know this is slightly off-topic, but since you mentioned it:
    how exactly do the syrian refugees harm the lebanese economy? as i understand it, that economy rests firmly on banking business (no way that syrian refugees could harm that, even if sitting and begging in front of the banks), tourism (on a general low with the conflicts surrounding and influencing lebanon) and then there is of course the construction business. nobody knows who’s gonna live in all those posh high-rise buildings but we sure do know who has been building them forever: very, very much underpaid and overworked syrians in jobs that no lebanese would ever take on. and i also haven’t heard of the great lebanese social system that is handing out huge amounts of food, shelter and money to the refugees, that seems to be more of an NGO/IO business.
    so please tell me where and how exactly do syrian refugees harm the lebanese economy? i am not denying the impact they have socially and politically/conflict-wise and i acknowledge the astonishing number of refugees lebanon has allowed to enter the country, but economy-wise i am ignorant, so please let me know your thoughts.

    • 5thDrawer

      Dear Anna … I know personally of three Lebanese who’s jobs were taken by Syrians who work for less … (the refugee plight – needs more) … one who went from office, to dishwasher, to nothing … for the same reason in each case.
      This only highlights the ‘influence’ of Syria in the Lebanese space – since a lot were imported when the Syrian Army rambled around ‘judging’ people. Cousin’s, brothers, nephews, uncles … and even a few aunts … get ‘hired’ to replace a Lebanese who was working for what was considered ‘fair wages’.
      And you’re right .. for Lebanese there is no ‘social system’ to fallback on.
      And yes, Banks have their own little world.
      It’s why they now report 300,000 of them in poverty – including ones burned out of homes in Tripoli or elsewhere .. like some refugees were out of their tents too, of course.
      Lebanese ‘businessmen’ (it has been said) are more Jewish than the Jews. 😉
      But I heard that from an Armenian once too … :-)))
      AND a Japanese who said: ‘Japanese Jew – Worst in the world!!’ (he was trying to export to them)
      WHAT you do NOT have is a clear and concise set of ‘rules’ (Labour Law) about what a refugee may DO … or what the businessman may ALLOW … in the treatment of ‘the working soul’ … or if there are, they are ignored anyway, in favour of ‘helping’ the ‘Syrian Brother’.
      It’s tied in to something about ‘sects’ too … totally weird.
      (Not to forget these things require a functional government.)
      Anyone else on this question?? ;-))

      • Igor Chingoski

        How I despise You! You are a low life punk scum of society and fabricator of gossip! You want to blend Lebanese Businessmen with Jews, HOW PATHETIC EBN CHARMOUTA YAHARADINEK WASKHA!

        • 5thDrawer

          Glad you gave yourself a ‘like’ on that one Igorski :-)))))
          Too bad you didn’t understand that bit of humour on how everyone thinks about cheap asshole businessmen who’d screw any employee just to keep their money in the pocket.
          Seems, in fact, lying down is what a lot of women need to do to get a job in the first place – even if they are not refugees.
          You have some personal ‘business’ experience you’d like to add … from Russia? 😉