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‘Food from Oweiwi family’s hotel room tests positive for Bacillus cereus’

By Laila Azzeh - Oct 18,2014 - Last updated at Oct 18,2014

AMMAN — Samples of food found in the hotel room of the Oweiwi family, two members of whom died last week as a result of food poisoning, have tested positive for high concentrations of Bacillus cereus, the Jordan News Agency, Petra, reported Saturday.

Quoting a Jordan Food and Drug Administration (JFDA) source, Petra said lab tests of food taken from the main kitchen of the Holiday Inn Resort Dead Sea and its pool kitchen showed it conformed to health standards.

The family had ordered food from a restaurant near the hotel’s pool last Tuesday and taken the rest of the meal to their room, after which they started exhibiting symptoms of food poisoning, the children’s uncle, Ashraf Oweiwi, told The Jordan Times last week.

Oweiwi said the resort’s nurse was called to check on their situation and the family was then taken to the Southern Shuneh Hospital.

Southern Shuneh Hospital Director Fayez Kharabsheh said in previous remarks that the four family members came to the hospital suffering from vomiting, fatigue and stomach pain. 

“Examinations showed that they had food poisoning, and they were given the necessary medication,” he said, adding that their condition was stable and that the father insisted on leaving the hospital on Wednesday morning and returning to the resort despite the medical team’s advice to remain under medical supervision.

Three-year-old Eziddin Oweiwi died last Wednesday of poisoning and his mother, Cerine Shawar, succumbed to the illness on Thursday.

The father and the eight-month-old daughter have been discharged from hospital.

The JFDA source said the food taken from the family’s room included vegetable soup, boiled potatoes, chicken burgers and dissolved baby milk, noting that they tested positive for Bacillus cereus.

The samples of powdered milk, chicken nuggets and biscuits taken from the room did not include any contaminants, the source told Petra.

Bacillus cereus is a type of bacteria that produces toxins, according to the US government’s Foodsafety.gov website. 

“These toxins can cause two types of illness: one type characterised by diarrhoea and the other, called emetic toxin, by nausea and vomiting. These bacteria are present in foods and can multiply quickly at room temperature,” it said.

The bacteria can be found in a variety of foods, “particularly rice and leftovers, as well as sauces, soups and other prepared foods that have sat out too long at room temperature”.

Food poisoning is caused by consuming food contaminated by bacteria or other toxins, forensic specialist Hani Jahshan told The Jordan Times on Saturday.

Jahshan explained that the bacteria itself can cause the poisoning symptoms, which could also be caused by toxins produced by the germs found in the food.

“In such cases, bacterial toxicity tests are required to be conducted on samples taken from the place where the food poisoning occurred as well as samples from the victims in order to eliminate or prove a long list of possible reasons behind the occurrence,” the expert said.

Jahshan added that the next step requires linking the test results with the investigative findings as this would “clarify whether substances found in the food have led, contributed or expedited the death or contamination”.

Commenting on what happened to the Oweiwi family, the doctor said the lack of services at the Southern Shuneh Hospital and the absence of a qualified medical centre at the Dead Sea tourism site violates citizens’ rights to healthcare and life.

“The entire circumstances accompanying the death of Shawar and her son violate their rights as patients to be provided with consistent medical treatment,” Jahshan said, adding that suffering from food poisoning at places where one expects strict inspection and public health standards to prevail is a “very dangerous” indicator.

According to the Mayo Clinic, most often, food poisoning is mild and is resolved without treatment. 

Nevertheless, a person should seek a doctor when suffering from symptoms that include frequent episodes of vomiting and an inability to keep liquids down; bloody vomit or stools; diarrhoea for more than three days; extreme pain and severe abdominal cramping; and dehydration, the Mayo Clinic website said.

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