Lebanese food scandal leaves bitter taste

Lebanese food scandal leaves bitter taste
Dipped in sweat and with traces of human faeces, Lebanese restaurants and super markets have been tainted by scandal.
3 min read
15 November, 2014
Boiled lamb's brain. What else is Lebanon eating? (AFP)

Lebanon, a nation fiercely proud of its cuisine, has been left with a case of severe indigestion after a scandal over restaurants and supermarkets selling tainted food.


Health Minister Wael Abu Faour has won plaudits but also faced harsh criticism for publicly naming and shaming establishments that failed food safety tests.


His recent graphic press conferences have horrified a country where it is not unusual to eat out three times a day.


"The Lebanese don't know what they're eating, and it would only be worse if they knew," Abu Faour said at a press conference this week.


      The Lebanese don't know what they're eating, and it would only be worse if they knew.
- Wael Abu Faour

"The Lebanese are eating food dipped in sweat and covered with diseases and microbes," he added.


Human faeces


At one unnamed establishment "some of the samples tested showed they contained the remains of human faeces! This cannot be tolerated whatever the cost is."


Over the course of several days, Abu Faour listed some of the country's best-regarded institutions.


Hallab, a famed dessert shop in the northern port city of Tripoli, was cited for spoiled cream, while branches of two popular Lebanese fast food chains -- Kababji and Roadster Diner -- were slammed for bad meat products.


Branches of well-known supermarket chains TSC and Spinneys have faced the same criticism as street corner shawarma joints that do a roaring lunch trade.


The campaign has divided Lebanese, with some describing Abu Faour as a rare example of good governance and others accusing him of a smear campaign that could destroy businesses.


On Twitter, backers showed their support with an Arabic hashtag reading "minister of all of Lebanon."


Roadster Diner thanked Abu Faour for being a "valued customer" and insisted it took "extreme measures" to ensure it met safety standards. 


Terrorism against restaurants


But others accused him of grandstanding, ignoring protocols by failing to privately caution offenders, or even worse.


Economy Minister Alain Hakim reportedly accused Abu Faour of "terrorism against restaurants."


"It is like shooting ourselves in the head, not even in the foot," local media quoted him as saying.


Others took to social media to object to the campaign, including Lebanese pop idol Elissa, who posted a photo of a Roadster burger on her Instagram page with the caption "most delicious chicken burger ever."


Lebanon's media pulled no punches covering the story, with the daily Al-Akhbar headlining its front page "The Lebanese are eating sh**."


The Daily Star ran a picture of ministers insisting Abu Faour personally sign the wrappers of their sandwiches to certify them fit for consumption.


Despite the furore, Abu Faour has insisted the campaign will continue.


"The biggest disaster is in the chicken farms," he said on Friday. "I believe we will be closing down a number of them."