Why is food poisoning a consistent concern among Nepali partygoers?

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Food poisoning
Image: Pexels

A total of 34 people from Ramechhap municipality-5 in the Ramechhap district who attended a wedding party on December 14 suddenly became ill. According to ward chairperson Harish Chandra Shrestha, almost all the people who became unwell had a headache, nausea and diarrhoea.  

“They were rushed to the health post and after the treatment, all of them are fine,” says Shrestha.  

In the same month, a similar event took place at another wedding party in Palpa as 85 people from Palpa and Pyuthan suffered food poisoning.

Again, in the same month, all the attendees of a wedding party at Chitwan Garden Resort became ill. Altogether 300 people including the bride and groom became unwell.   

Within two weeks, 419 people from different places went through similar health issues after attending parties.

These incidents show food poisoning is common among partygoers after the events, raising critical concerns about the status of food quality awareness among hosts and event managers.

Past events of mass food poisoning

Two years back, 15 people became ill after eating food at a shraddha, an annual ritual to commemorate the death of a family member, in Kailali’s Godawari municipality-10. One person died during the treatment at Seti Provincial Hospital.  

Kishor KC, an investigative officer at the Department of Food Technology and Quality Control, informs ear such incidents take place in different parts of the country every year.

Meanwhile, the ones who became ill in Ramechhap were taken to a health post. According to Krishna Bahadur Tamang, the head of the health post, the ill ones had symptoms like headaches, stomachaches, vomiting and high fever of up to 103 degrees. 

They received primary treatment for food poisoning at the health post and were later referred to the District Hospital, says Tamang. 

According to the report from the hospital, all of them were diagnosed with food poisoning. Most of them ate pork at the wedding party, and it was found that the water was contaminated too. Bacteria of diarrhoea were found in the patients. Also, there was negligence in the kitchen. 

In the case of Pyuthan, Mayor Bishnu Bahadur Yogi says everyone from the groom’s side became ill after eating at the wedding function. All of them had headaches and stomachaches, and they all had diarrhoea and were vomiting too. 

Yogi further informs that they recovered after two days of treatment in the District Hospital. 

Underlying causes

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Those who became ill in Chitwan Garden Resort, Ramechhap and Pyuthan had similar symptoms. 

A food test was done following Chitwan’s incident. The kitchen of Chitwan Garden Resort was found to be unhygienic when it was inspected by the Department of Food Technology and Quality Control.  

“Date-expired food items were found in the kitchen of Chitwan Garden Resort,” says Matina Joshi Vaidya, the director general of the department. 

According to Vaidya, among all such incidents of the last month, only the food of Chitwan Village Resort was cooked by the chefs whereas the food of other functions was cooked by the hosts themselves. 

The main cause of such incidents was negligence and lack of awareness of food safety. 

“There were problems with the quality of food materials, equipment used in cooking, and methods of cooking food,” says Vaidya. “They hosted the party in a traditional way but were indifferent to risks of infection.” 

“Such risks can be mitigated if better attention is given during the entire food preparation process,” she adds.  

According to the department, while studying some of these incidents across the country, most of the people who ate meat, pickles and salad fell ill. “The one who ate a lot of salad and pickles at the parties became ill,” says the investigative officer of the department, KC. 

“From the perspective of food safety, it is unhealthy to mix cooked and raw materials. Such a mixture causes food poisoning.” 

He explains the potatoes in pickles are cooked but chillies and green peas are not.  

Know what you eat

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Photo for representation only: Flickr

Meanwhile, contaminated food is causing such incidents in Nepal, says physiologist Kedar Baral. 

In medical terms, it is known as food poisoning and it can increase the risk of causing typhoid as per Baral. The toxins contained in food can make people feel sick within two hours. And if the bacteria spread around the body, people will have issues with their health within two days.  

According to Baral, a lack of concern for food safety in parties is a major factor behind such incidents in Nepal.

People have only been taught about washing their hands, but that is not enough to ensure food safety and avoid the risk of food poisoning.

The food at parties is cooked long earlier than the arrival of guests. Many people handle the food and it is also not stored hygienically, which makes the food contaminated.

Dipendra Raman Singh, the director general at the Department of Health Service, also agrees with Baral. “The lack of sanitation has caused such incidents of food poisoning in different parts of the country,” Singh says.

He adds that from the time of producing food till eating it, safety measures should be followed. 

This story was translated from the original Nepali version and edited for clarity and length.

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Nabin Dhungana is a business correspondent at Onlinekhabar.

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