x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 24 January 2018

Ramadan: Wahda Mall restaurants fined in Abu Dhabi hygiene crackdown

The Abu Dhabi Food Control Authority has kicked off its three-week inspection campaign ahead of Ramadan.

Staff from the Abu Dhabi Food Control Authority (left) inspect Beirut restaurant while the chef (right) prepares a meal at the restaurant's branch in Al Wahda Mall, Abu Dhabi. Sammy Dallal / The National
Staff from the Abu Dhabi Food Control Authority (left) inspect Beirut restaurant while the chef (right) prepares a meal at the restaurant's branch in Al Wahda Mall, Abu Dhabi. Sammy Dallal / The National

ABU DHABI // Dirty, uncovered containers of food stored on top of ventilation systems and floors with crumbs and dirt were some of the hygiene breaches found in Abu Dhabi restaurants yesterday.

The Abu Dhabi Food Control Authority visited two restaurants in Al Wahda Mall as part of its three-week inspection campaign before Ramadan.

“There’s water on the floor and maintenance is being done in the kitchen while they are cooking,” said Sarah Al Mashehari, a senior inspector at the authority. “That’s not allowed.”

Ms Al Mashehari and a team of inspectors were assessing the Beirut restaurant in the mall’s food court.

“A common problem is the workers’ personal hygiene,” she said, as a worker opened a garbage bin with his hand.

“That is not allowed. He should open it with his foot and he will get a warning for that.”

Broken tiles on the wall and dry food stored in open and dirty containers on top of a stove exhaust were also issues for the inspectors.

“This is wrong,” said Asma Al Sunaidi, an inspector. “Dry foods are supposed to have their own area. They’re not labelled and they’re not covered.”

Plates were found placed over a hand-wash and vegetables were stored in a refrigerator at the wrong temperatures.

“The temperature is at minus 0.4°C and that’s strange,” she said. “It should be between two and five degrees because this is too cold for vegetables.”

Inspectors also checked for essential documents such as certificates for staff training and food control, pest-control contracts and inspection books. At Beirut, all were valid.

“We gave him 74 per cent satisfaction but it’s not good enough and we gave him a warning,” Ms Mashehari said.

“If a warning is issued, I might come back in a week to 10 days. If not, I’ll come back in three weeks. I check around 70 restaurants in a month but during Ramadan we have two inspections a day, before iftar and after.”

Next up was Fuddruckers, where the verdict was better. Inspectors checked rubbish bins, sinks, food storage and temperatures.

“Until now, everything is fine,” said Ms Al Sunaidi. “We’re checking the dry store area next.”

The storage room was stocked with potatoes, spare chairs, drinks and cling film.

“The floor and the freezer need cleaning,” she said. “It’s also way too hot in here, much more than the usual room temperature, and chairs should not be here.”

Ghassan Bajary, the manager, tried to justify the breaches but the inspectors were not impressed.

“The floor is dirty and there are too many cartons here, which is not allowed,” said one of them, Jamila Al Shkeili.

Mr Bajary promised it would be fixed instantly.

“They visit us around three to four times a month and I’m not happy with what they saw, but I have a problem with the AC and we have a lot of maintenance going on,” he said. “I do have a plan of action and I will fix it immediately.”

Restaurant patrons said they were content with the standards of Abu Dhabi eateries.

“It’s a very nice restaurant and I’ve never had any problems here,” said Hassan Ekhtiar, a Syrian resident. “It’s very good quality and the service is impeccable.”

The inspection was part of seven planned for the capital. Others began in the Western Region yesterday and the authority plans more in Al Ain and surprise inspections during Ramadan.

“There’s a huge improvement from the day we started in 2005,” said Mohammed Al Rayssi, the authority’s communications director. “You can feel it when you go to any restaurant in Abu Dhabi.”

Mr Al Rayssi said personal hygiene was the main problem in food outlets but consumers should call 800 555 to report an incident.

“A common violation is the temperature in storage and transportation in summer, but it’s got better in the last two to three years,” he said.

“Our message to consumers this Ramadan is to buy only what you need to make sure no food gets spoilt or goes to waste.”