Sri Lankan social media users share misleading claim about meat served at Colombo restaurant

·2 min read

A video has been shared more than 2,000 times on TikTok alongside a claim that it shows a cooked rat head in a lunch box served by a hotel restaurant in Sri Lanka. Screenshots taken from the video later circulated dozens of times on Facebook and WhatsApp with the identical claim. However, laboratory tests confirmed the meat found in the packed meal was from a rabbit, not a rat. A manager at the hotel told AFP that it sells rabbit meat "a few times a month".

The video was posted here on TikTok on May 25, 2022.

It appears to show a lunch box labelled "Nizamiya hotel & bakehouse" being opened to reveal the head of a small animal on a bed of rice.

Sinhala-language text superimposed on the video translates to English as: "Brother, this is not to stir racism but for everyone to be aware."

A person can be heard in the video saying: "Hotel Nizamiya, address is Pettah."

Pettah is located in the Colombo 11 administrative zone in the capital.

"Look at the teeth, it's a huge rat," the person says at the 19-second mark.

Screenshot of the misleading post, taken on May 31, 2022.

Screenshots taken from the video were also shared dozens of times alongside a similar claim on Facebook here, here and here. It was also spread through the messaging app WhatsApp.

However, the claim is false -- laboratory tests run by authorities have confirmed that the meat shown in the clip is rabbit, not rat.

Rabbit head

The public health inspector for the Colombo 11 district dismissed the claim about rats being served by Nizamiya Hotel.

"The consumers of the lunch packet panicked, believing it was the head of a rat," the inspector told AFP.

"However, tests carried out on the suspicious content revealed it was the head of a rabbit."

Separately, a spokesperson for the Colombo municipality's Medical Officer of Health also confirmed that lab analysis had found the meat to be rabbit.

"Analysis conducted on the suspicious piece of meat revealed it was rabbit meat," the spokesperson said.

A manager at Nizamiya Hotel told AFP that rabbit meat curry is occasionally sold a few times a month.

There are no restrictions on the sale of rabbit meat in Sri Lanka.

However, the Chief Medical Office of Health for Colombo municipality Dr Ruwan Wijayamuni told AFP that Nizamiya Hotel had been fined for the manner in which it prepared and presented rabbit meat.

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