Guidelines for Safe Preparation of Shawarmas or Similar Meat Products

These current guidelines are meant to guide the procedures for preparing donairs and shawarma meat products safely in all types of food preparation premises. It also informs on a two step or secondary cooking process as well as established temperatures to ensure food safety.

WHAT ARE SHAWARMAS AND DONAIRS AND WHY THE NEED FOR GUIDELINES?

Shawarmas or donairs are typically made with beef, but can also use poultry or lamb. Donairs are made from ground meat shaped in a cone and frozen whereas shawarmas are made with strips of meat that are marinated and put on a vertical skewer. Both are cooked on a rotating spit in front of a source of heat, usually a broiler.

The risks associated with this type of products come from the increased surface areas of the meat product as well as the extra processing of the meat to prepare it for cooking. Preparations like these allow for the potential introduction of pathogens throughout the meat, and the slow cooking process on a vertical broiler can also contribute to microbial contamination.

In Canada, there have been four documented food-borne illness outbreaks since 2004 – 3 due to E. coli and one to salmonella, linked to donair or shawarma consumption. Inadequate cooking was identified as the cause of the illness, either due to failure of cooking process, insufficient cooking time or slicing too deeply in raw or frozen meat cone leading to undercooked meat slices being served to the public.

These guidelines aim to recommend a procedure to ensure donairs and shawarmas are prepared safely in food establishments by encouraging the development of a risk-based food safety plan.

GUIDELINES

  • All meat used to prepare donairs or shawarmas must come from approved sources.
  • Meat cones prepared fresh must be frozen immediately and remain frozen until used for cooking.
  • Frozen donairs or shawarmas taken from the freezer must be placed directly on rotating broiler for cooking.
  • Use a clean sanitized knife to cut off cooked meat from the exterior of the cone (approximately ¼ inch or .6 cm).
  • The meat must cook uninterrupted even when slicing. The broiler must not be turned down to slow the cooking of the meat.
  • Pieces of meat sliced from the cone must be submitted to a secondary cooking step to ensure it is fully cooked. Secondary step cooking can be in the form of grilling, baking in the oven or any other method approved by food inspection staff in your public health office.
  • Temperatures for secondary cooking of meats used for donairs or shawarmas:
    • Beef or lamb: 71ºC or 160ºF for a minimum of 15 seconds
    • Poultry: 74ºC or 165ºF for a minimum of 15 seconds
  • Adequate thermometer must be used in the food establishment to ensure and measure proper secondary cooking step. A probe thermometer with a sensor tip works best for thinly sliced foods.
  • Meats that have undergone the secondary cooking process should be used immediately, stored in a hot holding unit at temperatures of 60ºC or 140ºF or more, or quickly cooled to 4 ºC or 40 ºF or more and stored.
  • The Canadian Food Inspection System recommends cooling from 60ºC or 140ºF to 20ºC or 68ºF or less within 2 hours, and then from 20ºC or 68ºF to 4ºC or 40ºF or colder within 4 hours.
  • When the business day is done, partially cooked cones can be:
    • Sliced down to where the meat is frozen. The frozen core can be wrapped and returned to the freezer to be used the next day. The sliced meat must be fully cooked and cooled and placed in containers and refrigerated. If the meat on the cone is not used up on the next day, then it must be thrown out at the end of the second day or the cooking process continued until the whole cone is cooked. The cooked meat can then be refrigerated.
  • The food service or eating establishment must document the secondary cooking process in its Food Safety Plan.


QUESTIONS TO ASK WHEN MEETING FOOD ESTABLISHMENT OPERATOR
 

  • Where does your donair cone come from? (i.e. Is it bought from approved sources? Does it come frozen? Is it already all cooked? What size of cone? How fast is it used?)
  • Are cones made fresh on the premises? How do you go about preparing a cone? Is the material cooked or raw? How is it stored? How is it cooked? Is it made by hand or molded?
  • What is the cooking process?
  • How can you tell the donair is cooked? Is the temperature measured? What is the cooked temperature?
  • Is there a secondary cooking step for the sliced meats? How are they heated? Do you check to ensure meats have proper temperatures after secondary step?
  • How do you handle the leftovers, if any, at the end of the day? Do you reuse the cone?


 

Eastern Ontatio Health Unit / Bureau de santé de l'Ontario