Tetouan – A number of 84 cases of food poisoning in Tetouan, northern Morocco, were reported in the first week of August. All individuals involved were reported to have consumed fries from a local restaurant located at Boulevard Mohammed V.
Food poisoning is common in Morocco, with the Ministry of Health documenting around 1,600 cases per year. However, this number might be an underestimation, since many cases never reach hospitals nor seek medical help. Not pursuing treatment could prove fatal. In 2013, the Anti-Poison and Pharmacovigilance Center of Morocco (CAPM) estimated a fatality rate of 15.34 percent.
With the increase of European tourism to the north coast of Morocco each summer, transmission from Morocco to Europe is highly prevalent. An Eurosurveillance study published February 2017 reported that almost half of the Salmonella Chester strain cases reported in Belgium, Denmark, France, Spain, Sweden, and The Netherlands were linked to recent visits to Morocco and confirmed by sampling.
Food poisoning is not limited to the kingdom’s north. A collaboration of multiple scientific faculties within Morocco assessed the food hygiene of catering establishments in the Hay Hassani-district in Casablanca from 2006-2012. From all food samples, 31 percent were declared to be unhealthy for consumption, with the highest level of contamination found in fresh vegetables and meat dishes.
According to the World Health Organization, foodborne pathogens often result in diarrheal diseases, as well as instant nausea, vomiting, and abdominal pain. Food safety is a public health priority, and when not respected it can endanger everyone, especially young children, pregnant women, elderly, and immunosuppressed patients.
Foodborne illnesses are caused by bacteria, viruses, parasites, and toxins, as a result of improper food preparation, storage, environmental hygiene, and most importantly personal hygiene.
Therefore, basic hygiene practices should be advocated, endorsed and monitored when buying, selling, or preparing food. Those preparing food should be aware of their personal hygiene such as washing hands, wearing gloves, and securing a clean environment.
Bad hand hygiene after toilet visits and wrong preparation of chicken can lead to the transmission of E. coli and Salmonella.
Improving food security encompasses many levels of management in which policy-makers should build and maintain adequate food systems, strict surveillance and reporting systems, and national guidelines on food processing and preparation.
Furthermore, increased attention to environmental hygiene such as clean kitchens, fresh baking oil, resources for personal hygiene, and separate areas for meat and vegetable preparations are highly necessary.