Archive photo from student protest at Al-Azhar University against first food poisoning case earlier in April (Photo: Azhar student union media centre)
Initial lab results have revealed that dirty cutlery was behind Monday's second mass poisoning in Al-Azhar University in Cairo, which left 180 students hospitalised.
According to Ahmed Hosny, deputy head of the Al-Azhar University, the food poisoning resulted from dirty cutlery and not spoiled food.
"If the food was spoiled then at least 3,000 students would have been poisoned, not 180," Hosny told Anadolu news agency. "The university will not neglect the students," he added.
Ahmed El-Bakary, head of the student union, agreed with Hosny. "The food poisoning…is a result of the poor hygiene in the dorm kitchen because of dirty plates and utensils," he explained.
He also warned that more cases of food poisoning will take place if the kitchen remains in this state. El-Bakary pointed out that many of the kitchen workers who were suspended after the first incident have continued to work.
"The kitchen has only 28 workers even though there are 12,000 students living in the dorm," El-Bakary said. “This makes it hard to keep good hygiene and insure that all utensils are clean.”
Al-Azhar official Abdel Wahed Wogood denied any criminal intent behind the incident.
On 1 April, around 500 students at Al-Azhar were hospitalised after suffering from food poisoning at the dorm's cafeteria. Some human rights activists accused Islamists of being behind the incident to get rid of Grand Imam Ahmed El-Tayyeb and replace him with someone loyal to Egypt's Muslims Brotherhood and Salafists.
However, Wogood explained that the company which provides the food to the university is chosen through a nationwide public tender.
"The public tender is attended by a member of the State Council and the Ministry of Finance," Wogood said. "The Salafists and Brotherhood are not involved in it."