The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Meat-seller held for feast affliction

One person was arrested on Monday for food poisoning suffered by at least 70 invitees at two weddings in the Rajabazar and Narkeldanga areas on Sunday night. Preliminary investigation revealed that the beef supplied by the arrested person for the biryani on the menu was behind the problem.

The invitees fell ill and started pouring into the Hospital for Infectious Diseases at Beleghata from 9 pm on Sunday. “Most of them came in vomiting or complaining of stomach cramps. We admitted them, but as their condition started improving, we released them. Ten people are still in hospital but their condition is stable,” said a doctor.

Police said at least 800 people were invited to a marriage at the Calcutta Municipal Hall in Rajabazar. The invitees were served biryani from two in the afternoon and the lunch continued till the evening. First, the groom’s nephew fell ill. Within two hours, other invitees, too, developed food-poisoning symptoms. Soon, the figure soared to 40.

The other wedding was held at Fida Islam Madarsa School, in Narkeldanga. Invitees there, too, were served biryani from 12 noon. After the guests returned home, they started vomiting and complained of stomach ache. A section of them was treated at local health clinics, while the rest, whose condition started deteriorating, were rushed to the Beleghata hospital.

Immediately on receiving the twin complaints, police swung into action. During the course of investigation, they found that the arrested man, identified as Sheikh Raju, ran two beef shops in Rajabazar and Narkeldanga. After talking to the relatives of the grooms, police came to know that he had supplied the beef for both the weddings.

“That was reason enough to believe that the food poisoning was caused by the meat used in the biryani. We have, however, collected samples and sent them for tests,” said a police official.

The civic health department, that oversees the quality of food items and cooked food sold in the city, collected samples from the shops that supplied beef for the biryani at the two weddings.

The investigators, however, are also examining the other cooking ingredients. “We have collected samples of the oil that was used. If any other ingredient is found to have led to the outbreak, the suppliers will be prosecuted,” said a senior Lalbazar official. Relatives of the two sets of brides and grooms demanded exemplary punishment for the culprit.

Meanwhile, mayoral council member (health) Pradip Ghosh’s announcement on Monday that only licensed cooks will be allowed to cook food for social occasions has caused confusion in the civic body, as there is no provision in the CMC Act,1980, to grant licences to the cooks.

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