Dr. Allen Heimann, chief medical officer for the Windsor Essex County Health Unit, said an incident in Ottawa earlier this year “may have heightened awareness” about the dish.
In February, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency issued a media release warning customers to not consume finely ground beef sold at New Middleast Supermarket in Ottawa.
The release never mentioned a restaurant. In an email, CBC News asked why the CFIA made reference to a specific dish but did not immediately receive a response.
The owner of the New Middleast Supermarket told CBC News that he didn’t sell the beef to restaurants and that the meat in question was consumed by a customer.
He alleged the person bought the beef at his market and then stored it at home for six days before eating it raw.
To his knowledge, Heimann said the local health unit never received a complaint about kibbeh being served at restaurants in Windsor. He also said during those routine inspections, the unit asked one restaurant to stop serving steak tartare.
CBC News checked with Lebanese restaurants in Mississauga and Toronto and found that kibbeh is still on their menus.
Kibbeh not safe, health unit says
Local health officials say it should come as no surprise that Lebanese restaurants have been told to stop serving kibbeh. Heimann said it’s simply unsafe.
“The meat that we’re talking about is not permitted under Ontario food premises regulations, and these regulations have been in place for a long time, so this is just not a new issue,” he said. “This is an issue of where the serving of kibbeh has come to our attention, and we’ve dealt with it.”
The owner of El Mayor said he has served raw kibbeh for 17 years, without any complaints.
“It doesn’t make any sense. It’s not making sense to us,” Kamel Abbas said.
“Ground meat for public consumption must be cooked to an internal temperature of at least 71 C for 15 seconds,” Heimann said.
He said that has been a long-standing regulation that is now being fully enforced.
Heimann said the health unit’s inspectors are to meet Thursday morning. The health unit is to then hold a scheduled meeting Thursday night.