x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 17 January 2018

Dubai health inspectors close 53 restaurants in 6 months

The food sellers, many of which have since reopened, were found to have infringed on strict rules set by Dubai Municipality for storage, preparation and transport of food.

A Dubai Municipality food inspector checks a restaurant. In the first six months of this year, by far most of the outlets checked were rated “good”, “medium” or “poor” for food safety. Courtesy Dubai Municipality
A Dubai Municipality food inspector checks a restaurant. In the first six months of this year, by far most of the outlets checked were rated “good”, “medium” or “poor” for food safety. Courtesy Dubai Municipality

DUBAI // Health inspectors closed down 53 restaurants and cafes for food-safety breaches in the first half of this year.

The food sellers, many of which have since reopened, were found to have infringed on strict rules set by Dubai Municipality for storage, preparation and transport of food.

"The main problem is due to a lack of education," said Sultan Al Taher, head of the food inspection section at the municipality's food control department.

"Most of the places were small and low-quality places. They've been here for a long time and have fallen into bad conditions.

"We close them as a precaution but all of them are open again now. Even within a few days they all made a big change."

In the first half of the year, the municipality conducted thousands of inspections in restaurants and cafes, and rated them based on their adherence to food-safety regulations.

Twenty-five were awarded an "excellent" rating and 1,591 were rated "very good".

"We see that establishments getting these two ranks are increasing when compared to the figures last year, thanks to the systematic inspections carried out by the food-control department," said Mr Al Taher.

By far the most scored "good", "medium" or "poor".

Mr Al Taher said the inspections were carried out regularly.

"We come and inspect again in two weeks to follow their progress," he said. "Each inspector has their own area, and within that area they inspect all the restaurants and cafes.

"If there is any violation, they will be closed."

The municipality received 3,015 complaints from the public in 2011, compared with 2,372 last year.

A total of 191 businesses were closed last year because of food-safety breaches, up from 97 in 2011.

Mr Al Taher this year said the authority investigated every complaint.

"On one occasion a man had visited a seafood buffet and decided to eat 20 shrimp," he said.

"He had already eaten 19, but on the last one he complained it didn't taste the same as the ones before.

"Despite this, we investigate every complaint we get."

Between 500 and 700 food outlets open every year in Dubai, and the food control authority hopes to hire more inspectors to manage the sector's growth.

The authority is also aiming to engage in a series of awareness campaigns to highlight food safety.

The authority holds workshops for staff on the subject and trains restaurant owners so they can pass on the knowledge to employees.

Food-safety information is being translated into 15 different languages to further ease the process.

"The people who have low education, in small places, that's where the problems are," said Mr Al Taher.

"We are managing to solve it by giving lectures about food safety. Before it was a big problem, now it's getting better.

"People are more educated and aware. It's already changed quite a lot and every year it gets better."

mcroucher@thenational.ae