ABU DHABI// A supermarket chain had 36 kilograms of spoilt fish destroyed yesterday during an unannounced visit by food inspectors.
Prawns, clams and haddock were deemed unfit for human consumption by Abu Dhabi Food Control Authority (FCA) officers at a LuLu supermarket in the capital, with one inspector saying the prawns were “mushy” to touch, easy to break and smelled. The bad smell was the final stage before the fish was spoilt, he said.
FCA inspectors made the discovery during a series of spot checks on butcher shops and fishmongers across the emirate.
The officials were testing food safety, hygiene, cleanliness, the quality of meat products and the temperature in which they were stored. Inspectors visited 13 meat and butcher shops and issued four warnings.
At the Lulu Hypermarket, inspectors checked the meat and fish halls. While the butcher received high marks on the inspection checklist, it was a different story at the fishmongers.
One inspector explained a good fish was firm to the touch, had clear, black eyes, was shiny and had its scales intact.
Mohammed Shajith, the general manager of the LuLu in question, at Al Wahda Mall, said the fish had been bought fresh in the morning and that he was unsure how it had become spoilt by noon.
However, he vowed an inspection would be carried out and said an action plan would now be implemented to ensure the store would not sell poor-quality fish again.
It was the first time a warning had been brought against the store, he said.
In a bustling meat market in the Madinat Zayed area of Abu Dhabi, teams of inspectors carried out simultaneous checks on 17 butchers.
In one, Al Nadeem butchers, 24-year-old Pakistani worker Mohammed Arshari said he approved of spot inspections, saying they keep standards high.
He cleaned his entire butchery twice a day – in the afternoon and evening – and washed machinery and cutting boards after every two customers, he said.
In another, Al Manzoor butchers, inspectors advised Pakistani Hamid Navid, 25, about cleaning his utensils and warned him to put up a sign above the sink to wash utensils and chopping boards in separate sinks.
The fish market was also checked for correct temperatures and hygiene levels. At one stall, inspectors issued verbal guidance about a broken fan.
Ali Al Saad, acting director of communication and community service for FCA, said that while the recent horse meat scandal sweeping Europe had not triggered the spot inspections – the UAE has reported no traces of horse in products – he said it was important to carry out checks to reassure members of the public that the food standards are high.
He said food quality in Abu Dhabi emirate as a whole had risen steadily over the past two years.
“It is very important for us that we show we are keeping our eyes in the field,” he said, adding that no establishment would go unchecked.
“When we carry out inspections, we hope we do not find any problems but we will act if we do.”
He also urged members of the public to report offences.
In FCA inspections, minor lapses are recorded and result in warnings then follow-up spot checks.
Repeated flouting of the law could result in court action and possible punitive closure, Mr Al Saad said, adding that the FCA operated a “naming and shaming” policy and worst-case offenders would be revealed in newspapers.
FCA inspectors carried out similar spot checks in Al Ain on Wednesday. They issued three warnings and disposed of 10kg of prawns.
Anyone who wishes to report an unhygienic food establishment should call 800 555.