Shawarma and Donair Best Practices

Donairs, shawarmas, gyros, and other similar products can have a high risk of foodborne illness if proper food safety steps are not taken.

The main risk is due to the extended cooking process for donair cones, where the centre of the cone may remain raw or partially cooked for an entire day while meat undergoes surface heating. Therefore, the sliced meat may be undercooked; the harmful bacteria in raw juices from the center of the cone can contaminate the outer cooked pieces; or the slicing knife can become contaminated and spread the bacteria to other cooked pieces or other surfaces.

In addition, partially cooked donair cones that remain at the end of the night may take a long time to cool and reheat. During these periods the donair meat may be held at temperatures that allow bacteria to grow and produce heat resistant toxins. Since 2004, there have been at least 50 cases of E. coli associated with the consumption of donairs in Canada. To help reduce the risk of foodborne illnesses associated with donairs, shawarmas, and gyros the following guidelines have been created:

  • All meat must be obtained from approved sources
  • Frozen meat cones must be placed in the freezer right away and kept frozen until cooking
  • Once the cooking process has started it must continue until the cone is fully sliced and the cooking unit must stay on at all times
  • Once the exterior of the cone is cooked the outside layer (approximately one quarter inch or 0.85 cm) may be sliced off using a clean sanitized knife
  • The sliced meat must receive a secondary cooking step on a grill or in an oven until meat is cooked to a temperature of 74°C (165°F)
  • Following the secondary cooking step the meat must be
    • Served right away
    • Stored in a hot holding unit at a temperature of at least 60°C (140°F)
    • Cooled quickly to 4°C (40°F) or colder in a cold holding unit
  • Meat that has been cooled to 4°C (40°F) must be re-heated to 74°C (165°F) before it is served to a customer
  • At the end of the day partially cooked cones cannot be kept for future use. Options for a partially cooked cone are:
    • Throw away any remaining portions of uncooked or partially cooked meat
    • Continue the cooking and slicing process on the vertical broiler until the entire cone has been sliced, with a second cooking step required immediately or before it is served
    • Fully cook the remaining cone to an internal temperature of 74°C (165°F) on the vertical broiler or by another means available (oven, broilers, grill) and check the internal temperature using a probe thermometer. Slice the cooked product and cool as described above

* Based on the BC Centre for Disease Control "Guideline for the safe preparation and serving of donairs, shawarmas and similar products", 2012

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