Eateries under scanner

Amid stringent regulations, the number of eateries facing fines for non-compliance with law continues to average above four a day in Muscat. According to data from the Directorate General of Health Affairs at the municipality, 245 shops were closed and more than 1,500 fines were issued following 20,691 inspections carried out in 2017. “In addition, 8,000 kilograms of meat, fish, poultry, vegetables, fruits and cooked food were destroyed along with 2,142 packets of expired foodstuff as they were found to be unfit for consumption,” said an official at the municipality.

According to the official, an inspection team from Food Control Department has been carrying out vigorous checking as part of a campaign last year to ensure quality and suitability of food. “The inspection campaigns of the food control teams are intended to create a healthy environment for the community and to ensure that health conditions have been diligently adhered to,” he said. The official revealed that the Central Laboratory of the Municipality collected 671 food samples that were subjected to microbiological examination.

Of these, 652 samples conformed to specifications, while 19 were not in accordance with microbiological standards in the third quarter of 2017. The total number of cattle slaughtered in Al Seeb and Al Amerat slaughterhouses was 173,000 sheep, camels and cows. During the veterinary examination, 158 cattle that were unfit for human consumption were executed during the past year. According to Oman’s new Penal Code, promulgated by the Royal Decree 7/2018, institutions or individuals accused of producing, manufacturing and storing rotten food could face up to 10 years in prison and a fine of RO 10,000.

The term can be increased to 15 years in case of death. The Muscat Municipality also stipulates hefty fine and closure of establishments for non-compliance. According to the civic rules, a restaurant or any other eatery can be closed for a period of up to 10 days and fined RO 2,000. In cases of repeat violations, offenders can be forced to pull down their shutters for at least six months. Article 2 of the law specifies that the municipality has the right to close food establishments  and public health stores practising an activity without a licence or any commercial fraud in food.

It can also close the establishments for poisoning resulting from food, non-compliance with health requirements, employment of infected workers with contagious diseases or any other reason determined by a competent authority like the municipality. Muscat Municipality called on restaurants and cafés to comply with health regulations and asked consumers not to hesitate to report unhealthy practices by food establishments.

SAMUEL KUTTY