Lebanon Eats Shit, Literally

Dec 05, 2014 at 2:11 PM ET

With its delicious mix of French and Mediterranean food, Lebanon has long been the culinary capital of the Middle East. But that reputation is now suffering.

Over the past few weeks, the Lebanese government has shuttered dozens of restaurants and food processors across the country, including top supermarket chains and popular eateries. One of the main reasons: the presence of human feces.

“The Lebanese learn they are eating shit,” one local paper splashed across its front page.

Leading the charge to clean up Lebanon is Health Minister Wael Abu Faour. Since early November, he’s announced the results from tests on over 1,000 sites across the country, and every day the local media has reported a wide variety of food- and health-related violations, from selling expired food to rat-infested facilities.

While many restaurants have scoffed at the minister’s cleaning crusade, some have gone into crisis mode, promoting themselves as safe places to eat. One popular diner chain has even said it will donate a food testing lab to the government.

In the wake of the health ministry’s investigations, the government has formed a food crisis committee and plans to create a permanent institution to monitor food safety.

Yet many here in Lebanon are doubtful that anything will get done, as the government hasn’t passed any meaningful legislation in years.

Indeed, the growing food scandal comes at a time when the country is beset by problems: an influx of Syrian refugees, daily outbreaks of sectarian violence, a vacant presidency and power outages that can last as long as 14 hours a day.

In other words, Lebanon is in deep, well, you know.