It’s not every day that an outbreak of norovirus has the potential to destabilize an entire country, but hundreds of students at one of Egypt’s top universities have been furiously protesting for two days after an incident at one of the university’s dormitories sent nearly 600 students to the hospital for food poisoning.
The students at Al-Arbak University in Cairo claim that this is only the latest in a string of food poisoning incidents at the prestigious school. “A similar incident happened before,” a student told Al-Jazeera. First, we demand clean food, and second, we demand the dismissal of the director of [student residential complex] University City, since he is responsible for all the daily management.” The students claim that well over 1,000 were poisoned.
However, the protests might have little to do with the actual food poisoning itself and may be, instead, a symptom of Egypt’s overarching state of political, post-revolution unrest: As Food Safety News points out, “Campus meals were not that popular before they were being blamed for the current food poisoning outbreak,” and Al-Jazeera notes that the university sent out a statement “warning students not to ‘exploit’ the mass food poisoning, saying that such incidents have occurred at other universities.”
Nevertheless, the food poisoning protests are so incendiary that the Muslim Brotherhood released statements denying involvement in the food poisoning, the nation’s top public health officials are launching a full-scale investigation, and Egypt’s President Mohammed Morsi made public visits to recovering students.
Suddenly Noma’s outbreak seems like small potatoes.
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