Dr. Issmat Kassem, a microbiologist and a certified professional in food safety, shared a scientific study showing the levels of E. coli contamination in the Akkawi cheese sold in Beirut, Lebanon.
The study covered multiple regions within Beirut: Koraytem, Hay Al Leja, Verdun, Sakiyet Al Janzir, and Ras El Nabeh. The Lebanese Standards Institution (LIBNOR) specifies that the permitted level of E. coli concentration in cheese is 100 E. coli per gram, and it must not exceed 1000 E. coli per gram.
In these areas, the level of contamination far exceeded 1000 E. coli per gram. It even surpassed 79,000 E. coli per gram in one region.
In an interview with Tony Khalife, Dr. Issmat Kassem explained that Akkawi cheese was chosen for analysis due to its numerous uses in Lebanese cuisine.
He was shocked by the results, and he explained that the lack of electricity and of proper refrigeration most likely resulted in such high levels of E. coli concentration in the Akkawi cheese.
He explained that the symptoms of E. coli infections can range from diarrhea and fever to severe symptoms such as kidney failure. He adds that pregnancy, weakened immune systems, and old age can result in an increased risk of developing these complications.
He advises people in Lebanon to avoid the consumption of food without cooking, to avoid raw meat, and to heat the cheese prior to eating it.
Food poisoning is now a widespread phenomenon in the country because of the inability to properly store due to constant power outages caused by the debilitating fuel crisis.