With reporting from Elysia Windrum and Riham Sheble
A branch of the popular Turkish fast-food restaurant Marmara Istanbul has been closed for up to two months after several customers reportedly suffered food poisoning from eating there.
One woman, who was seven months pregnant, experienced severe stomach pains hours after eating food from the outlet in Bin Omran on Friday night, and had to be rushed to hospital, the Peninsula reports.
She prematurely gave birth to her baby on Saturday. The infant remains in an incubator at Hamad General Hospital’s Newborn Intensive Care Unit, while the woman is receiving treatment at the Women’s Hospital Emergency Unit, her husband told the newspaper.
Marmara Istanbul has several branches across Doha and is popular for its affordable grilled chicken.
The Bin Omran restaurant near TV Roundabout, opposite the Nissan Petrol Station, was shut by authorities over the weekend, following the food poisoning reports.
The eatery’s doors and windows were plastered with stickers put up by the Ministry of Municipality and Urban Planning (Baladiya), which monitors all food outlets in Qatar, saying “This establishment is closed due to violating municipal laws and regulations.”
Another sticker said that the establishment was in breach of Qatar’s Food Law (No. 8 of 1990).
On its website, MMUP said the restaurant would remain closed for up to 60 days.
It also published photographs of the inside of the restaurant, showing what appears to be dirty and moldy chopping boards, unclean worktops, BBQ grills blackened with caked-on food deposits and food lying around the surfaces.
In recent months, the MMUP has been cracking down on food outlets that break the law, upping the number of spot checks on restaurants and shops to catch those who breach food safety regulations.
And in February this year, amendments to the food law gave greater powers to authorities to fine and close down venues that break the law.
The ministry has also started naming and shaming erring establishments, publishing details of them in Arabic on its website.
Speaking to the Peninsula, Kunhali, an Indian expat from the southern state of Kerala, said he had gone to Marmara around 9pm on Friday night with his wife and two children, ages three and seven years old. He continued:
“I woke up next day with an intense nausea followed by diarrhea. My children also developed similar problems and my wife had to be rushed to the hospital following acute pain in the abdomen and had a premature delivery.”
His two children were treated at the pediatric emergency unit in Al Saad, while he was admitted to Hamad General Hospital and was discharged yesterday, he said.
He remains concerned about the health of his wife and newborn baby, he added.
It is not clear how many people fell sick after eating at Marmara over the weekend. Management at other branches were not immediately available for comment.
And Hamad General Hospital would not confirm any details of the incident, or comment to Doha News on the number of people affected.
This morning, several passersby stopped to look at the shuttered restaurant and expressed surprise at what had happened. Speaking to Doha News, Ali Muhammad, a Pakistani expat, said he was a regular at the restaurant. He added:
“Seeing these stickers is scary. It has really put me off wanting to eat at any of the restaurant branches. I won’t be coming back any time soon.”
And Mohammad Ahmadi, an Iranian expat who also regularly went to Marmara with his family, said:
“Now that people have been food poisoned after eating here, I am not going to come back here, at least not for a while. I’m not going to put myself or my family in danger.”
Food poisoning causes
Food poisoning cases are most prevalent in Qatar during the hot summer months, but can happen at any time of the year.
It usually occurs as a result of bacteria in food, which often thrive when food is not being properly chilled, prepared unhygienically, stored improperly or under-cooked.
Those particularly vulnerable to food poisoning are the young (those under five years old), elderly, pregnant women and those with underlying health issues such as diabetes or who have immune-compromised diseases.
Earlier this summer, Hamad Medical Corp. issued tips for avoiding food poisoning, which you see here.