Kasaragod: Contaminated food from restaurants has reportedly claimed another life in Kerala. Anjushree Parvathy (19) of Thalaklayi village in Kasaragod's Chemnad grama panchayat died in the early hours of Saturday (January 7) after battling food poisoning symptoms for seven days. Three people, including the owner of the hotel, is in custody in connection with the incident.
She had ordered one full chicken manthi, one full chicken 65, mayonnaise, and salad from Al Romansiah Restaurant at Adkathbail in Kasaragod town on December 31, said Thalaklayi ward member Renuka Bhaskaran.
The food was home-delivered for lunch and five persons had it: Anjushree's mother Ambika, her brother Sreekumar (18), and her cousins Sreenandana and Anushree, both 19 years old. "The food upset all of them," said Renuka.
The cousins recovered fast. But Ambika and Sreekumar had tummy upset. "But Anjushree was affected the most. She was vomiting a lot and had to be taken to a private hospital on January 1," the panchayat member said. The hospital at Delli administered glucose drips and sent her back. But the vomiting did not stop.
On Friday, her condition worsened and she collapsed. She was taken to another private hospital at Nullipady in Kasaragod. The hospital declared her condition to be critical and referred her to a private medical college in Mangaluru. She died in the hospital around 5.15 am on Saturday.
Anjushree was a second-year BCom student at Govinda Pai Memorial Government College in Manjeshwar. "She was on the campus from December 23 to 29 attending the NSS camp," said a faculty member.
Anjushree's death comes three days after the death of Reshmi Raj (33), a nurse at Kottayam Government Medical College on January 3. She died of suspected food poisoning after having Kuzhimanthi and Alfaham at Hotel Park at Sankranthi in Kottayam.
Kuzhimanthi is a popular Yemini dish of chicken (or any meat), spice mix, and rice slow cooked in an underground oven.
Around 20 others had fallen ill after having the same food from the same restaurant, according to news reports.
Soon after the death, the state government ordered a crackdown on restaurants and eateries across the state.
The Food Safety Department conducted surprise inspections at 429 restaurants on the day Reshmi Raj died, said health minister Veena George. Of those, the department ordered the closure of 22 restaurants for not maintaining hygiene and 21 for not having a licence.
A similar knee-jerk action was launched across the state after Devananda (16), a class 11 student in Kasaragod's Cheruvathur died after having shawarma from a cool bar in Cheruvathur in May 2021.
The Food Safety Department shut down around 200 restaurants in the crackdown then.
After Anjushree's death, Veena George said in a statement that the government would cancel the licence of Al Romansiah. She also directed the Food Safety Commissioner to conduct an inquiry into the death of a college student and submit a report soon.
She also directed the District Medical Officer, Dr A P Dinesh Kumar to submit a report on the treatment protocol of Anjushree, said the statement.
To be sure, the Food Safety Department conducted inspections at 31 restaurants in Kasaragod district on January 5 based on the direction given after Reshmi's death.
In Kasaragod taluk, the officials inspected 16 eateries and found irregularities in five places. Three restaurants were shut in Thalangara, Mogral, and Kasaragod revenue villages, said Food Safety Assistant Commissioner Subimole Y J.
She said Al Romansiah was also inspected and the Food Safety Officer found the restaurant to be in order. "According to the Food Safety Officer's report, the restaurant was clean and the licence was active," she said. However, the department sealed the restaurant on Saturday.
She said her department's squad had been actively checking eateries before the Christmas vacation started. "In Anjushree's case, the department has not yet got any complaint," she said.
But the squads found irregularities in four eateries in Hosdurg taluk and five eateries in Kasaragod taluk. "We have served them notices and they will be made to pay fines," she said.
The restaurants that were closed can only be reopened with the sanction of the Food Safety Commission, she said.