MUSCAT, Jan 9 – Amid the steep rise in the number of eateries being closed for non-compliance with laws, Muscat Municipality has warned of stringent action against violators.
“Inspection teams from the Food Control Department at municipality are conducting vigorous checks on all eateries,” said a civic official. The official said inspections have revealed that most restaurants, coffee shops and other foodstuff sellers are found to have least respect for regulations.
“Many of them, mostly small-scale restaurants and coffee shops, pose danger to health,” he said.
In a statement on Wednesday, the municipality said any eatery that causes food poisoning will be fined RO 2,000. “This is apart from closure of the shop for 10 days. In case of repeated violations, the licence will be cancelled and the fine will be doubled,” said the statement.
Any shop found selling expired, prohibited or adulterated food will be fined RO 1,000 in addition to closure of the shop for three days. According to the 2017 data, the number of eateries facing fines for non-compliance with laws averaged above four a day in Muscat.
Stringent food regulations exist in Oman. But with the mushrooming of restaurants and other eateries, the municipality officials are not able to reach them regularly.
“Inspections are carried out regularly but they are not done as thoroughly as they should be,” said a hotel employee in Ruwi.
Often the checks revolve around whether the food items are stored hygienically, their expiry dates, cleanliness of utensils and safety of equipment, he said.
“Sometimes, violations end up with warning notices. In extreme cases, fines are slapped and closure orders issued,” he said.
According to a source familiar with food safety, the inspection teams should focus on the standard of food served as well as the hygiene.
“The most important factors are temperature control, steps to avoid chances of contamination and cleanliness of staff along with other hygiene conditions,” he said.
He said one of the major food hazards is the sale of roadside shawarmas.
“Municipal laws insist on keeping swawarmas inside glass chambers. Yet, they are kept in the open and exposed to emissions from vehicles. This is very dangerous,” he pointed out.
Even though no cases of food poisoning with serious intensity has been reported in Oman in recent years, any untoward incident can send wrong signals to visitors and affect tourism, he said.
According to a report from the World Health Organization, unsafe food poses global health threats, endangering everyone.
Infants, young children, pregnant women, the elderly and those with an underlying illness are particularly vulnerable. Every year, 220 million children contract diarrhoeal diseases and 96,000 die.
“Unsafe food creates a vicious cycle of diarrhoea and malnutrition, threatening nutritional status of the most vulnerable,” says WHO report.
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.