BAGHDAD, 18 August (IRIN) - A serious rise in food poisoning cases
caused by expired and contaminated food in Iraq has been reported by the Ministry
"Government hospital directors have alerted our ministry that there is
an increase in cases on a daily basis, especially in children, caused by poor
food quality in the markets," to Mustafa al-Aani, a senior official at
the ministry said.
Muhammad Shambar, a Baghdad doctor, said initial symptoms for the food poisoning
are characterised by intense diarrhoea and constant vomiting. He added that
urgent action should be taken by the patient before dehydration sets in.
"We have at least three cases of food poisoning every day in our
hospital and when you analyse the patient's history you find that they ate food
that had passed the sell by date or that it was prepared in unhygienic conditions,"
Expired food had been sold in northern Iraq, which was considered to have the
best food monitoring system in Iraq, officials said.
During Saddam Hussein's regime all food stuff entering the country
was monitored for quality control and sell by dates were checked rigorously
before entering shops.
One of the main reasons for this recent increase in tainted food in the market
is due to the removal of border customs check points, officials said.
Dr Salah Hassan, a food quality control expert at the Ministry of Health, further
explained that shopkeepers were being duped into buying such goods as the sellers
were changing the date of expiry by sticking new labels on products.
"I am sick now because I ate cheese which was supposed to be good quality.
My son found that the label had been changed giving a longer expiry date. But
you can see on the old label that it expired more than a year ago," Saluwa
Ali, a patient at Yarmouk hospital, said.
The food sold is full of bacteria and harmful, doctors say.
"We have found very dangerous bacteria or fungi on the expired products
that we tested from local markets," said Hassan.
"Consumers are not aware of the bacteria because it is not visible in
the food and subsequently find themselves inside an emergency hospital room."
Government health workers said they were working to stop the illegal trade
and called on shopkeepers to be more vigilant when purchasing.