Much of the food was being stored beneath trucks and behind electricity cables, exposed to dust and pollution, and deemed unfit for human consumption.
Tonnes of rotten food being sold to Dubai’s poorest residents
More than 1,300 tonnes of rotten fruit, vegetables and meat were seized from unlicensed markets by health inspectors in Dubai during the first half of the year.
Much of the food was being stored beneath lorries and behind electricity cables, exposed to dust and pollution, and deemed unfit for human consumption, said Salim Ali bin Zayed, acting head of the market section at Dubai Municipality.
“Selling food items unsuitable for human consumption was not the only problem, but also they were cooking food and selling it to labourers. These markets did not abide by food hygiene rules,” he said.
Vendors at the unlicensed markets were selling meat, chicken and fish that had not been properly stored nor hygienically prepared, he said.
More than 16,460 tonnes of goods, including clothes, foodstuffs and other items were seized in the first half of the year as Dubai Municipality cracked down on illegal markets.
Rotten food comprised 1,316 tonnes of the total seized, according to Mr bin Zayed.
A large amount of food sold in these markets is picked up from rubbish containers, he said.
Often, the people who set up stalls have regular jobs, buy the goods from larger markets and then sell them on to supplement their wages, Mr bin Zayed said.
“Therefore, they start selling these items without giving attention to health and safety.”
The markets – despite their illegality – are a source of affordable products for many workers, some of whom earn as little as Dh500 a month.
The unlicensed markets are located near workers’ accommodation and food items are sold cheaply. Chicken is sold for as little as three dirhams, Mr bin Zayed said.
The goods and food items were confiscated during a number of raids on unlicensed markets in the industrial areas of Dubai, including Jebel Ali, Al Quoz and Al Muhaisnah.
Last year, inspections were carried out in Al Muhaisnah where 35 tonnes of rotten food were confiscated.
Four months ago, Dubai Municipality health inspectors returned to the same area and seized a further 12 tonnes of food during one weekend of market raids.
“Health inspectors carry out regular inspections in these areas to deter vendors from selling spoilt food,” Mr bin Zayed said.
Several licensed markets in industrial areas were found to be selling rotten chicken, meat and fish.
Alaa, an Egyptian shop vendor at a market in Al Quoz, said the owner of the shop where he works insists they sell everything.
“Our shop owner forbids workers at the shop from throwing anything away, even expired food.”
He said the shop offered chicken, meat and fish at prices between Dh6 and Dh12. On average, poultry is sold for approximately Dh20 per kilo at larger supermarkets.
Sultan, a 34-year-old Indian worker, was browsing meat at a licensed shop at a market in Al Quoz.
He had selected a package of rotten meat and when asked whether he was considering buying the meat answered: “Why not. It looks good.”
Mohammed Badil, from Bangladesh, is a market regular who has bought food from Al Quoz shops for the past three years.
Mr Badil, who earns a monthly salary of Dh1,200, buys chicken twice a week and pays Dh8 for each.
Mr bin Zayed said the municipality and other authorities have launched campaigns to make workers aware of the dangers of eating rotten or improperly stored food.
Many licensed markets in the industrial areas of the emirate sell food and other products that are safe to consume, he said.
“There are also charity foundations that organised a market to sell items at a lower price.”