Ninety-seven per cent of fish and meat retailers inspected by Dubai Municipality over the first half of the year were either warned, fine or closed for violating health and hygiene rules.
According to figures released yesterday, of 132 shops targeted by the animal products monitoring section of the municipality's food control department, 114 were served with warnings, 13 were fined for lack of hygiene and one establishment was closed down.
The numbers might be high, said Sultan Al Tahir, the head of the animal product inspection section, but the warnings should not be seen in a negative light.
He said a warning does not mean a retailer is bad. Rather, he said, "it means they are complying with Dubai Municipality but are not in the grade we want.
"Our aim and our target is to have excellent premises in Dubai. The warning is given to improve."
Employees' personal hygiene was the main problem the inspections found. Mr Al Tahir said the municipality is working on a programme to "improve their skills".
The establishment that was shut down, he said, was in a "very bad situation."
Warehouses were also targeted in the month-long campaign, with 80 per cent receiving warnings. The most common problems were ventilation and food not being kept separately, Mr Al Tahir said. There was a drop of one percentage point in violators over last summer's campaign, from seven to six per cent.
"Warehouses are a very important location for the food establishments ... because all food establishments take their food from warehouses. If the warehouse is clean and safe, and [provides] good storage, so the food will reach the customer in the good condition," he said.
The municipality has been making a concentrated effort to improve food safety in recent years, rejecting 500,000 tonnes of imported food in 2009 for failing to meet official requirements.
A three-year project to implement a "person in charge"in every food establishment in Dubai is also expected to reach its target by the end of this year. As a liaison between his establishment and the municipality, the appointed person would be responsible for overseeing food storage and preparation.
The next step for the municipality, Mr Al Tahir said, is a major food safety campaign before Ramadan.