‘Double fine’ for hotels flouting hygiene norms

MUSCAT, Oct 1 – Restaurants found flouting hygiene norms will have to cough up double the stipulated penalty even as the Muscat Municipality has launched an inspection drive in an attempt to “fix gaps” in hygiene standards.
The drive, called the ‘Proactive Food Safety and Health Project’ will see teams of experts visiting eateries, restaurants and cafes to detect pesticide residues in vegetables, fruits and pickles.
“Restaurants or eateries found violating safety standards will be fined double the stipulated amount,” said the spokesperson at the General Directorate of Muscat Municipality.
“We aim to raise efficiency and culture of food traders and managers of those facilities and reduce the health effects of eating foods,” he said.
“Our new project will help develop an appropriate database for use in the future studies and research.”
The campaign is an effort to deal with those not complying with proper hygiene standards. It is part of the civic body’s efforts to create a city free from pests, cockroaches and insects that harm public health.
The rationale behind implementation of the ‘Proactive Actions against Food Poisoning’ is synonymous with HACCP (Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points) standards, which is a preventive system for food safety.
This will be implemented by identifying risks — biological, chemical or physical — at each stage and identifying critical points that need to be controlled to ensure safety of the product as well as identifying the challenges in determining the causes of food poisoning.
“The project is aimed at implementing precautionary measures in order to anticipate food poisoning through a number of methodological steps followed by a team assigned to the project,” he said.
Teams will visit establishments that provide food, (restaurants will be top priority) and uncover possible gaps in pollution control and its likelihood of causing food poisoning.
Experts will collect swabs from the hands of staff, surfaces, tools and samples of food, and send the same to the Central Laboratory of the Muscat Municipality for further investigation.
They will look for pesticide remnants in vegetables, fruits and pickles in restaurants to ensure they do not exceed the permissible limit.
For the past one month, the civic body has been grading restaurants in the capital in order to classify them against different yardsticks.
“We have been visiting restaurants to ensure they adhere to standards,” said an official at the Restaurants Evaluation Department.

KABEER YOUSUF