The Innocence Of Humus

Just when you thought it was safe to go back into the water, there are more food poisoning cases. After fish, water and shawarmah (several times), humus is suspected by officials, to be the latest culprit.

Health Minister Salah Mawajdeh told The Jordan News Agency, Petra, that final results are expected to be out in two days. Tests were being conducted to detect salmonella, shigella or cholera. Mawajdeh said that 90 per cent of the people treated for the symptoms had eaten hummos from the restaurant in question.

But hold on a second. Before you swear off delicious humus forever:

Tamer Ayasrah said his two-month-old cousin was among the cases. “Do not tell me that this infant had hummos.”

People from the village interviewed by The Jordan Times at the public hospital said that the restaurant was too small to sell this huge number of meals. Besides, in a village like Sakeb, inhabited by around 20,000, hummos is not a common dish.

They pointed out that the water network in the village is 40 years old and worn out.The village receives tap water once a week, according to a schedule set by water authorities. Its turn was Thursday evening, the day the cases started to arrive at the hospital.

What’s interesting is that even though the Ministry of Health is supposed to contain public panic while it runs its tests to confirm what’s what, they’re still keen on pointing fingers and simply guessing what caused the poisoning.

But hey, I like to guess things to. It’s fun.

For example, I guess that the Ministry doesn’t want another water contamination on its bloodied hands as it would represent yet another failure to contain the same problem in such a small time frame. It’s embarrassing. It’s much easier to blame it on something new, and something that restaurants are responsible for. Also, it’s elections season, and the constituency of water-drinkers tends to be larger than the humus-lovers, so it’s easier to piss off the latter. I also guess that in a few days the Ministry will shut down all humus-selling restaurants and fine them for not taking the necessary measures to protect their customers.

At which point there will be a revolution.

But hey, I’m just guessing.

It’s really a wonderful way to finish off the year for this government; going out on a high note of public policy failure. I am absolutely convinced that the Jordanian government is so lacking in any type of mechanism to control these situations, that if mad cow were to hit Jordan, most of us would be vegetarians (or vegetables) within a week.

UPDATE: Eight more victims have gone to the hospital. The Ministry of Health is denying that water is source of the poisoning, while residents have sent a letter to the PM, arguing that they’re water may be contaminated vis a vis the area’s sewage. [source]

Meanwhile, Emad Hajjaj has found an interesting way to tie this to all the political campaigning.


  • Outrageous and painful! No excuse. Where is our accountability to this negligence?! Is the gov in a coma?!

    Where are our priorities?

    It’s 2007, the least we can do is get clean water and food into our kids systems. The absolute minimum. Because we know how to. We are capable of it. We can afford it. We are able to implement it. But it seems the human beings who have to do the work are elsewhere. The gov should be all over this aggressively and reach out to anyone who can help work out sustainable solutions.

    Ou ba3dein?! The way we handle these situations is exactly why we are third world.

    Note to gov: Call for help on the private sector. This would never happen in a lovely gated community, sports club, factory….

  • And the story continues… Hummus is the victim this time, it’s obvious that Hummus chances of being poisoned are too limited. They should pick something else for the story to be consistent. Hmmmmmm, let’s say Pizza, oh, I assume there is no Pizza in Sakeb, ok, what about burgers, Chinese food, Italian food, Mexican food, or what so ever? Stupid Ha?! Maybe they should come up with new sources other than food, plants for example, or maybe some kind of insects. A poisoning plant in Sakeb. Still stupid too. Hey, I take it back, they weren’t wrong in picking Hummus. CLEVER!

  • So 90% of the people treated ate hummus from the same restaurant but those interviewed and the villagers are suggesting that’s not likely………I’m confused! I guess that was the point you were making.

    with regards to the shawarma, me and my sister once got food poisoning from eating shwarma at a rather upscale restaurant in the US. It’s the way the meat is processed and then contained that makes it extra susceptible to contamination so people should generally be cautious with shawarma anywhere and everywhere.

  • Don’t you think that most of us are vegetables! To become a vegatable you don’t have to be in a hospoital bed, we all are walking vegatables 🙂

  • And think of what vegetables take in from the earth they grows in. Where do u think that water comes from in some places? Then there’s pesticides… We can run, but we can’t hide.

    So better deal with it and fix it.

  • Shawarma stripped!
    Humus stripped!
    Whats next???

    Maybe Erin Brokovich needs to venture to Jordan and do the testing herself? You know she’ll find somethin’!

  • Actually Hommus can be just as bad as Shawerma. During the summer my boss ate some Hummos at the tase of Chicago and he was in the hospital for 3 days. I coudn’t believe it at first later I found out there was some kind of a recall on one brand of “Tahini” a couple of weeks earlier; so apparently the Tahini if not processed properly can be poisonous.
    Anyway, half of the resturaunts in jordan should be shut down for health reasons but that would cause a revolution nonetheless….

  • If people are eating humus, it’s no wonder they’re getting sick.

    Humus is dirt. Literally, the decomposing organic material in soil that provides the nutrients for plants to grow.

    Hummus, on the other hand, is a delicious paste made of chick peas, olive oil, and tahini.

    Also – has anyone explored the issue of agricultural runoff from upstream farms into the rivers that feed the water systems?

  • I think we should definatley take up a collection for the poor scapegoat, I mean guy, who owns the hummos shop. As of today, Oct. 31, the paper reports that it was definately the hummos. I still dont get how the people who said that they definitley DID not eat any hummos, got infected from EATING HUMMOS!

  • Oh great, and here I’m traveling to Jordan – not just for the sites – but also specifically the shawarmah and humus.

    None-the-less – I’m bringing my courage – and some Pepto-Bismol!

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