Botulism outbreak traced to mayonnaise at Riyadh restaurant

Following the lab results that traced the source of the recent food poisoning outbreak saudi authorities have implemented additional measures to ensure food safety. (Shutterstock/Supplied)
Short Url
Updated 12 May 2024
Follow

Botulism outbreak traced to mayonnaise at Riyadh restaurant

  • Saudi food authority discovers clostridium botulinum in Bon Tum brand product; ministry implements strict measures

RIYADH: The Ministry of Municipal, Rural Affairs and Housing announced on Saturday that a Saudi Food and Drug Authority laboratory test had found clostridium botulinum in a Bon Tum mayonnaise brand used by the Hamburgini food chain.

Since the bacterium was discovered in a Bon Tum factory, the ministry has collaborated with the SFDA and other authorities to enforce additional measures beyond those previously implemented.

These measures include suspending the distribution of the mayonnaise product and withdrawing it from markets and food facilities across all cities in the Kingdom. They also include halting operations at the factory in preparation for implementing statutory procedures.




The bacteria that caused a Botulism outbreak was discovered in a Bon tum factory.  (Supplied)

Any remaining quantities of the product at the factory across all batches and expiration dates have also been withdrawn, and all factory clients, including restaurants and food establishments, have been notified to dispose of any quantities they own.

The ministry has also issued instructions to continue the monitoring, investigation, and inspection campaigns across all cities of the Kingdom by municipalities and relevant authorities, ensuring the safety of food products provided to consumers.

Authorities have emphasized the importance of obtaining information from official sources and not being swayed by rumors and misinformation.

HIGHLIGHTS

• The botulism outbreak was first brought to light on April 27 when Riyadh municipality received a report of food poisoning cases linked to the Hamburgini restaurant chain.

• New measures undertaken by authorities include suspending the distribution of the Bon Tum mayonnaise product and withdrawal from markets and food facilities in the Kingdom.

• Any remaining quantities of the product at the factory across all batches and expiration dates have also been withdrawn.

• Authorities have emphasized the importance of obtaining information from official sources and not being swayed by rumors and misinformation.

Dr. Nezar Bahabri, infectious diseases consultant at the International Medical Center in Jeddah and the director of the Saudi Society of Medical Microbiology and Infectious Diseases in Jeddah, told Arab News that contracting illness through clostridium botulinum is very rare as it thrives in non-oxygenated (anaerobic) environments and is typically found in improperly preserved foods.




Dr. Nezar Bahabri, Infectious diseases consultant, International Medical Center

The bacterium produces a toxin that attacks the body’s nervous system, resulting in muscle weakness, blurred vision, difficulty speaking and swallowing, and eventually paralysis. Typically, the likelihood of exposure to this bacterium is low with modern food safety practices in place.

Bahabri said: “When this bacterium is ingested, and the toxin is released, symptoms will manifest within a few hours up to around two days.”

Mohammed Al-Awamy, a gastroenterologist, told Arab News: “Symptoms start in the face and then descend to involve the limbs and trunk. Respiratory failure ensues due to involvement of the respiratory system leading to cardiopulmonary collapse.”

The best measure to be taken is eating fresh and cooked food as the heat of cooking will kill the bacteria, and the toxin will become ineffective.

Dr. Nezar Bahabri, Infectious diseases consultant, International Medical Center

The symptoms of botulism, the illness caused by clostridium botulinum, are quite distinct and can be quickly recognized and treated with an antitoxin.

Bahabri explained: “If it was an injury, we will clean the wound and the infected tissue. If it is due to ingestion, we administer antitoxin, IV (intravenous) fluid, and painkillers as needed.”

Botulism is a life-threatening neurological disorder resulting in paralysis and death if not treated promptly.

Bahabri said that a patient must be admitted to hospital for observation, adding: “If the patient develops symptoms or weakness in the respiratory or lung muscles, we will transfer them to the ICU (intensive care unit) to put them in mechanical ventilation until the antitoxin works.”

Bahabri said that with proper treatment, the chance of a patient dying was less than 7 percent, adding: “The best measure to be taken is eating fresh and cooked food as the heat of cooking will kill the bacteria, and the toxin will become ineffective.”

The occurrence of clostridium botulinum infections is extremely uncommon due to the precautions taken in food preparation and handling. Therefore, it is important to stay informed about food safety guidelines and to be cautious when consuming canned or preserved foods.

The botulism outbreak was first brought to light on April 27 when Riyadh Municipality received a report of food poisoning cases linked to the Hamburgini restaurant chain.

The Ministry of Health said 75 people were affected in the outbreak, which included one death, and that no new cases had been recorded.

Dr. Mohammed Al-Abd Al-Aly, the Kingdom’s Health Ministry spokesperson, said on social media platform X: “The total number of recorded cases stands at 75, including 69 Saudi nationals and six non-Saudis.”

He also confirmed at the time that the only source of the contaminated food was from the local Hamburgini fast-food restaurant chain.

In response, health oversight teams promptly initiated an investigation and began monitoring the situation. By 10 p.m. on Thursday, all locations, branches, and the main catering factory of the restaurant chain in Riyadh were ordered to close.

Delivery services through the facility or via applications were suspended, and coordination efforts were initiated with key bodies, including the Ministry of Health, the Food and Drug Authority, and the Public Health Authority.

People reacted on social media platforms after the announcement of the lab results.

McDonald’s Saudi Arabia wrote on X: “We, at McDonald’s Saudi Arabia, assure everyone that we do not use, nor have we ever used, Bon Tum mayonnaise … No case of poisoning was detected in any of our restaurants, thank God, and none of our branches were closed during this entire period.

“We wish and pray for all those injured to recover quickly. May God protect our country and our honorable people from all harm.”

@MohammedLegandry wrote on X: “This mayonnaise is officially the cause of the poisoning cases that occurred. I think it is positive news for the sector as long as the problem is identified, and it limits the messages of weak-minded people, the writing and spreading of circulating rumors, frightening people, and causing panic.”

“We are reassured that government agencies are keen on the public health of individuals,” posted @Nnalshriii.

@Abusayel54 commented on X: “I hope that the factory will be defamed, closed, and fined.”

@iiuxr8 said: “Is the mayonnaise the main cause of poisoning, or poor storage? (by Hamburgini).”

Another user @Hamoooo11 wrote: “Food quality and safety is the role of the restaurant itself to ensure its products, even if they are sourced externally. Otherwise, what is the point of a specialist and quality controller in their facilities?”

 


Saudi border guards foil smuggling attempts near Jazan

Updated 23 June 2024
Follow

Saudi border guards foil smuggling attempts near Jazan

RIYADH: Border Guard land patrols have foiled an attempt to smuggle 135 kilograms of qat in Al-Dayer sector of Jazan Region. 
Also in Jazan region, border police thwarted an attempt to illegally transport 160 kilograms of qat in Al-Ardah. 
Legal procedures were followed, and the seized items were handed over to the concerned authority.
Meanwhile, two Pakistani residents attempting to sell 4.7 kilograms of methamphetamine in Jeddah. The individuals were referred to the Public Prosecution for legal action.


KSrelief continues humanitarian activities in Lebanon, Sudan

Updated 23 June 2024
Follow

KSrelief continues humanitarian activities in Lebanon, Sudan

RIYADH: King Salman Humanitarian Aid and Relief Center’s (KSrelief) philanthropist works in Lebanon and Sudan continues with its latest provision of medical support and basic food requirements for needy individuals.

In the Miniyeh region of northern Lebanon, the Souboul Al-Salam Social Association ambulance service being funded by KSRelief completed 56 emergency missions, which involved the transport of patients to and from hospitals as well as the provision of first responder services to individuals involved in traffic incidents.

In Sudan, the Saudi aid agency distributed 620 food packages to displaced families staying at the Shelter Center in Blue Nile State, or about 6,131 individuals receiving the subsistence items under the third phase of the Food Security Support Project for the country.


Saudi woman Sondos Jaan set to climb the highest peak in the Arab world

Updated 22 June 2024
Follow

Saudi woman Sondos Jaan set to climb the highest peak in the Arab world

  • Adventurer tackles Mount Toubkal in Morocco

DHAHRAN: Sondos Jaan embarked on the journey to the highest peak in the Arab world on June 20.

It is the latest episode in Jaan’s love for mountain adventures, but to understand the fascination it is important to take a look back at her childhood.

She told Arab News: “I am from Madinah. I was born in a city where I could see a mountain from my bedroom window, and as I walked the streets I would see mountains.”

A picture of Sondos Jaan aged about 5 on the top of a mountain with her father. (Supplied)

Those peaks were an important part of her early childhood. There are pictures of Jaan aged about 5 on the top of mountains. She said: “I call these pictures ‘Sondos between two mountains,’ the real mountain carved in nature, and my father.”

During family camping trips, she would sneak away the moment her family was not paying attention in order to climb a mountain.

HIGHLIGHTS

• For her latest adventure, Sondos Jaan is climbing Morocco’s Mount Toubkal, which is a height of 4,167 meters.

• The climb has two routes: The first takes three days of climbing, and the second takes two days but is more challenging.

She added: “I would hear my father calling me, telling me to stay put and to wait for him. My dear father would come to me and we would then climb together, step by step, him telling me where to place my feet until we reached the summit, and then we would descend together, just the two of us.”

Sondos Jaan from Madinah hopes that young Saudi girls reading about her adventures will feel encouraged to take up sports and hobbies they are passionate about. (Supplied)

Her father was the first adventurer she knew. He was always prepared, she says, and “his car was always ready for a trip.”

She said: “He would tell me stories when he returned from hunting trips, whether on land or at sea. I would imagine the stories as if he were the hero in one of the animated films I watched. Sometimes he would take me with him, and I felt like I was part of the story.”

Sondos Jaan from Madinah hopes that young Saudi girls reading about her adventures will feel encouraged to take up sports and hobbies they are passionate about. (Supplied)

Her love for adventure was instilled in her by her father from a very early age. And it seems mountain climbing is in her DNA.

Jaan said: “My father is my primary mountain-climbing coach, and I certainly inherited the spirit of adventure and love for travel, experiences, and camping from him.

Sondos Jaan from Madinah hopes that young Saudi girls reading about her adventures will feel encouraged to take up sports and hobbies they are passionate about. (Supplied)

“He taught me swimming, horse riding, hunting, fishing, and the basics of camping.”

For her latest adventure, Jaan and a friend are climbing Morocco’s Mount Toubkal, which is a height of 4,167 meters. The climb has two routes: the first takes three days of climbing, and the second takes two days but is more challenging.

A file photo of Sondos Jaan when she was about five years old. (Supplied)

They started the climb early, continuing for about nine to 11 hours, followed by an overnight stay at an elevation of 3,200 meters above sea level.

She believes that elements of nature are instilled within each of us and it is our duty — and a privilege — to find and channel those elements.

She said that climbing to Everest Base Camp was the hardest trek she has yet attempted. It was a two-week journey and she added that she was not able to sleep, eat well or breathe properly due to oxygen deficiency in the two days leading up to arrival at the base camp. However, those were not the main factors behind it being her most difficult climb.

She said: “The (main) reason was simply managing expectations. I was emotional after walking all that time and reaching what was supposed to be the summit for that trip, only to realize it wasn’t even the summit.

“It was the main camp where climbers camp for two months every year before attempting to reach the Everest summit, allowing their bodies to acclimatize to the oxygen deficiency, training, and waiting for the right time to climb the summit.”

The experience taught her a valuable lesson, and she added: “I remember descending and as soon as we settled in one of the tea houses, I cried.

“They asked me why. I said I wanted pizza, crying real tears. The owners of the house tried hard to make pizza for me. I ate one slice and gave the rest to their dog. I reflected on my feelings and asked myself, ‘Why did I act that way?’ And the simple answer was, we didn’t reach the summit, we just saw it up close.”

She considers the thrill of the journey, and not only the destination, to be one worth embracing. She now believes that the feeling of almost giving up happens during every climb; she sees it as a healthy sign.

She added: “It is a reminder that I am human. It is also a reminder that I am capable of doing things that might seem impossible, not because I have superhuman strength, but because I am a human capable of overcoming challenges. This gives me the motivation to complete the climb.”

She believes her latest adventure also serves a greater purpose. Seeing Saudi women participate in various fields, especially sports, helps encourage her to keep striving for the highest heights.

She hopes that young girls reading about her adventures will feel encouraged to take up sports and hobbies they are passionate about, and that her experiences will help to push them to their limits to break stereotypes and barriers along the way.

She is to continue her climb, whether it be a mountain to conquer, or toward the goals of her gender.

For those starting out, she advised: “(You must) start with small, achievable goals and gradually increase the difficulty level. Ensure you have the right gear and training: it’s important to be physically and mentally prepared.

“Join a community or group of climbers for support and motivation. Most importantly, believe in yourself and enjoy the journey.”

 


Migratory birds bring ecological balance to Saudi Arabia’s Northern Borders region

The Aman Environmental Society has launched awareness campaigns and created water basins to support and sustain migratory birds.
Updated 22 June 2024
Follow

Migratory birds bring ecological balance to Saudi Arabia’s Northern Borders region

  • Nasser Al-Majlad: “They contribute to plant reproduction and diversity through pollination, while also helping to control pests by consuming insects, reducing the need for harmful pesticides in agriculture”

RIYADH: Every year, nearly 300 bird species use Saudi Arabia’s Northern Borders region as a migration path. The area’s diverse landscapes and balanced ecosystem create a natural sanctuary for these avian visitors.

Nasser Al-Majlad, president of the Aman Environmental Society in the Northern Borders region, highlighted the crucial ecological and cultural role played by migratory birds.

FASTFACT

The migratory birds have a positive impact on soil health and ecosystem balance by aiding in soil aeration and seed dispersal near bodies of water.

“They contribute to plant reproduction and diversity through pollination, while also helping to control pests by consuming insects, reducing the need for harmful pesticides in agriculture,” he said.

According to a report by the Saudi Press Agency, Al-Majlad also emphasized the positive impact birds have on soil health and ecosystem balance by aiding in soil aeration and seed dispersal near bodies of water.

NUMBER

300

Every year, nearly 300 bird species use Saudi Arabia’s Northern Borders region as a migration path, Saudi Press Agency reported.

He also stressed the necessity of protecting migratory birds from poaching and environmental problems. The National Center for Wildlife has enacted strict anti-poaching legislation, he noted.

The Aman Environmental Society has launched awareness campaigns and created water basins to support and sustain migratory birds.

 


Saleh Al-Shaibi, senior caretaker of the Kaaba, dies

Updated 22 June 2024
Follow

Saleh Al-Shaibi, senior caretaker of the Kaaba, dies

  • Funeral prayers held after Fajr on Saturday at the Grand Mosque
  • His responsibilities included opening and closing the Kaaba, cleaning, washing, repairing its Kiswa (covering), and welcoming visitors

MAKKAH: Dr. Saleh bin Zain Al-Abidin Al-Shaibi, the senior caretaker of the Kaaba, died in Makkah on Friday evening. Funeral prayers were held after Fajr on Saturday at the Grand Mosque.
Al-Shaibi, who held a doctorate in Islamic studies, was a university professor and an author of several works on creed and history. He was the 77th key holder of the Kaaba since the conquest of Makkah.
His responsibilities included opening and closing the Kaaba, cleaning, washing, repairing its Kiswa (covering), and welcoming visitors. He took over the guardianship after the death of his uncle, Abdulqader Taha Al-Shaibi, in 2013.
His son, Abdulrahman Saleh Al-Shaibi, told Arab News that saying farewell to his father was one of the hardest and saddest moments of his life. He added that the family accepted Allah’s will for a man who was always close to everyone and dedicated his life to serving the family.
He went on to say that his father had been suffering from illness recently but had remained patient and steadfast. The entire community shared in the family’s grief and expressed their sorrow and pain for the loss of the Al-Shaibi family’s pillar.
Al-Shaibi chaired the Department of Creed at Umm Al-Qura University for over two decades. Known for his scholarly approach and love for knowledge, he explored religious and doctrinal issues deeply. An academic at heart, he left a significant and lasting impact.
King Fahd bin Abdulaziz appointed him to the Saudi Shoura Council, and Al-Shaibi served as the deputy to his uncle in the guardianship of the Kaaba until becoming senior caretaker.
His son Abdulrahman added that he had served as his father’s deputy in the guardianship of the Kaaba for five years, after which his cousin Abdulmalik Al-Shaibi had taken over.
He said that his father had wished him to hold the guardianship and the key to the Kaaba after him. However, if this wish is not honored, the guardianship and the key will be handed over to his uncle Abdulwahab Al-Shaibi.
Nizar Al-Shaibi, the cousin of the deceased, told Arab News that it was a sad day for the family. However, the outpouring of love, solidarity, and support from all segments of society, who had rushed to offer their condolences, had helped to ease the burden of their grief.
They had expressed their gratitude for the life of the deceased, who had dedicated his life to the guardianship of the Kaaba and enhancing its reverence.
The General Presidency for the Affairs of the Grand Mosque and the Prophet’s Mosque mourned the death of Sheikh Dr. Saleh bin Zain Al-Abidin Al-Shaibi.
It said in a statement: “With hearts content with God’s decree, the General Presidency for the Affairs of the Grand Mosque and the Prophet’s Mosque and all its employees extend their deepest condolences to the family of the deceased, Sheikh Dr. Saleh bin Zain Al-Abidin Al-Shaibi, the senior caretaker of the Holy Kaaba.”
Khaled Al-Husseini, a writer and expert on Makkah’s affairs, expressed his deep sorrow over the death.
Al-Husseini described Al-Shaibi as a man of knowledge and learning, who, alongside his honored role in the guardianship of the Kaaba, was a scholar, academic, and lecturer at Umm Al-Qura University. He had generously shared his knowledge with successive generations which had benefited from his expertise over 20 years.