A rat’s head found in a chicken curry created a major uproar yesterday. The rat was discovered by a student dining at Rajshahi University in western Bagladesh, sparking a flash of angry demonstrators calling for action to be taken against the chef.
Bangladesh has more than its fair share of rat problems. Earlier this year a farmer from the northern part of the region won a colour television in a government backed competition to find the most prolific rat catcher. Binoy Kumar Karmakar, 40, used traps, poison and flooding to kill 39,650 rats in just one year.
Rentokil’s biologist Dr. Andy Brigham commented on the curry from hell, “if it was cooked thoroughly all the way through it should be just as safe as anything else! If the rat fell into a vat of curry and drowned later, then there would be a lot more risk”.
“Many of the nasty diseases spread by rats, such as E Coli, Salmonella and other food poisoning bacteria normally are picked up by us on food contaminated by direct contact, urine or droppings – but a dead rodent would work just as well, if not better at contaminating the entire vat of curry. All sorts of other things might be unleashed into the vat if the whole rodent is in there and broken up – rat tapeworm and other intestinal nasties, possibly any blood borne pathogens like leptospirosis, for example. It really does depend then on whether cooking would have destroyed the microbes or not,” Dr. Brigham said.
The chef responsible for serving rat curry at Rajshahi University has been suspended but the business consequences can be financially and legally devastating for any business failing to take adequate measures concerning rodent control. In the UK any pest control issues will have a negative effect on the Scores on the Doors food hygiene rating and failure to comply with legislation, including the Health and Safety at Work Act (1974) and Food Safety Act (1990), can result in a fine and closure. The best way to keep rats out of a kitchen is to put proceedures in place. Prevention is far more effective than dealing with the negative fall-out a rat-in-food story always creates.