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Friday, March 5, 2021

Marmara Istanbul food poisoning trial resumes in Qatar court

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Marmara Istanbul
Marmara Istanbul

Six Five employees of a popular Turkish fast-food chain in Qatar returned to court this week, facing trial for a suspected case of food poisoning last October that left several customers violently ill.

The defendants include the manager of Marmara Istanbul’s Bin Omran location, where a woman who was seven months pregnant ate before she was rushed to the hospital with severe abdominal pain, giving birth prematurely.

The Indian expat’s husband and two other children, who had also eaten at Marmara, also sought medical treatment after experiencing “intense” nausea followed by diarrhea.

The Ministry of Municipality and Urban Planning subsequently shut down the eatery, which is located near TV Roundabout, for some two months following its inspection in the aftermath of the incident.

An image taken by inspectors of Marmara Istanbul.
An image taken by inspectors of Marmara Istanbul.

Pictures posted by the government department showed 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.

The restaurant has since re-opened.

Legal proceedings

The six five defendants – most of whom are Turkish and Egyptian nationals – are charged with handling and selling food unfit for human consumption, in violation of the health code. All were arrested and released from custody prior to their trial, which got underway last November.

The allegations are considered an “environmental felony,” meaning they are deemed a less serious charge than some other categories of criminal offenses.

Lower criminal court in Doha
Lower criminal court in Doha

If convicted, the restaurant employees – all of whom deny the charges and have pled not guilty – face prison sentences of between six months and a year and/or fines of between QR7,000 and QR15,000 (US$1,922 to $4,119), according to Law No. 8 Regulating Human Food Control, which was updated last year.

The defendants returned to court yesterday for a brief session during which the judge requested that reports prepared by a food-testing laboratory be translated into Arabic.

Speaking to Doha News, a lawyer involved in the case said the defense is arguing that the food samples taken after the reported poisoning cases were improperly collected from the restaurant and mishandled prior to testing.

The lawyer said that 40 samples were taken in total, 39 of which came back clean. The one that tested positive for bacteria had, according to the lawyer, been collected six hours before it was tested.

The lawyer argued that any bacteria found on the food could have developed after it was removed from the restaurant.

He declined to say what type of food was collected or expand upon how the defense is alleging it was mishandled.

The defense is also criticizing the prosecution for allegedly failing to specifically name the spoiled food that led to the victims’ illness.

“There was no proof that anything harmful happened to them as a result of eating food” from Marmara Istanbul, the lawyer said.

When reached by phone this afternoon, a supervisor at Marmara’s Bin Omran branch directed Doha News to a supervisor at the chain’s Al Sadd location, who declined to comment about the case.

Crackdown

The charges filed against the restaurant employees come amid a broader push by authorities to improve food safety in Qatar.

The law under which the Marmara Istanbul employees are charged was toughened in February 2014 to include harsher punishments for restaurants and food outlets caught breaching regulations.

Chowking 3 MMUP
An image taken by Qatar food safety inspectors in 2014.

Meanwhile, last April, the Ministry of Municipality and Urban Planning announced it would begin naming and shaming violators by publicizing its enforcement actions against eateries.

Currently, the law only allows the ministry to identify violators and release photos showing moldy ingredients, bug-infested meals and shuttered restaurants on its webpage in Arabic, limiting its exposure.

Officials have been mulling publishing the names of offending restaurants more widely by taking out ads in newspapers, for example.

The trial is scheduled to resume on April 6, when two Supreme Health Council employees – the chairman of the Central Food Laboratories as well as the director of food safety and health – are expected to testify.

Thoughts?

11 COMMENTS

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The Reporter
The Reporter
5 years ago

I think I’ll stop eating in Doha.

al-Lalal
al-Lalal
5 years ago

“Officials have been mulling…” This is really encouraging.

kunhali
kunhali
5 years ago

Me& family are the victim.any one can help for further procedures for follow up.

FalconFlyer
FalconFlyer
5 years ago

So, indirectly the message is ‘Don’t report such cases otherwise you have to prove what went wrong with the food served’. All I could gather was that the family that fell sick has to pay for the municipalities inefficiency. All the hoo hah of being consumer friendly…nahh.

“Speaking to Doha News, a lawyer involved in the case said the defense is arguing that the food samples taken after the reported poisoning cases were improperly collected from the restaurant and mishandled prior to testing.”

Turkish
Turkish
5 years ago

Staff and quality poor. i don”t like .i will cook my self at home i will like to come chief for my family :))))

Pjb
Pjb
5 years ago

This should be interesting. Employees being held responsible for food poisoning of customers, potentially facing jail time. Owners and management of a day care that fail to provide the necessary safety requirements that end up killing innocent children….don’t face jail time ….. Fine example of selective Qatari legal system at its best.

Joe
Joe
5 years ago

what a simple case Judge Judy could close her eyes and do this one in 15 minutes….oh wait we are in DOHA, and justice is for the poor and the expats not for any one from the Arab countries .

Abdulrahman Al-Thani
Abdulrahman Al-Thani
5 years ago
Reply to  Joe

Trials, involving lawyers are always going to take a long time. Small claims courts that’s on Judge Judy don’t allow lawyers. Also, she acts as an arbitrator of sorts. What you see on T.V isn’t an actual courtroom though she does behave the same in real court.

Given the massive cultural, legal and language differences a lot of the population have with each other, having a lawyer be an intermediary is essential.

Blue
Blue
5 years ago

What exactly is the law? To retain a sample of the food suspected for poisoning? How would that be possible if I eat out? That sample food would certainly have been cleared out by the time the authorities appear.

How about a sample of the poo when food poisoning is suspected? Or is it the lawyers don’t touch poo and it is easier to go after employees!!! PI insurance will go thru the roof

Abdulrahman Al-Thani
Abdulrahman Al-Thani
5 years ago
Reply to  Blue

Or you can take a picture of it on the premises when it is discovered.

Coco
Coco
5 years ago

Are we still talking about poo? I’m confused…

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