New standards for food safety issued in Oman

Oman Sunday 08/December/2019 22:40 PM
By: Times News Service

Muscat: Now bakers in Oman will need to ensure that the bread they bake is up to the new standards set by the Ministry of Commerce and Industry.
The decision was communicated by Dr Ali Al Sunaidi, the Minister of Commerce and Industry, and will regulate the quality of bread baked and consumed in the Sultanate.
The standards were issued in ministerial decision number 95/2019, and according to a statement from the Ministry of Commerce and Industry, “The Oman standard specifications for bread must be mandatorily adhered to. However, it excludes breads produced for the purpose of export only. An administrative fine not exceeding OMR1,000 will be imposed for violating the provisions of these standard specifications.”
“If there are repeated violations to be found the fine will be multiplied and the establishment, or the part of it which produces the bread, could also be closed down temporarily,” added the ministry. “The Omani standard specifications for bread determine general requirements for all types of bread made of wheat flour or mixed with other types of cereal flour. The standard specifications do not include other types used for special purposes.
The specifications also list the items required to make bread, including all food products prepared by mixing and kneading wheat flour, water, food salt and fermentation material, and one or more optional materials. The bread must be left for fermentation, then cut according to the required weight, shaped and left for some time, then baked at an appropriate temperature of 205–235 degrees Celsius, in which the heat and humidity both are controlled.
While the bread may contain certain additives, the it cannot contain impurities and foreign objects such as “dirt, gravel, and sand, and any mineral or glass, plastic, animal residue, such as deadly insects and their parts, the waste of rodents, hair, nails, and any other material which can directly or indirectly enter the product.”
Should there be any additives present, they must follow the standards set out by the GCC Standardisation Organisation. In addition, all the ingredients used in the baking of bread must follow the right specifications, in addition to there being no fungal matter present in the product. To ensure these regulations are being followed, the ministry will send inspection teams from time to time to bakeries, where they will also look at samples of the different breads produced there.
“The product should be free of fungi, which can be seen with the naked eye,” said the Ministry statement. “Also, the sample taken should be representative of what is produced. It should also be kept away from pollution sources so that it does not become spoiled. The bread must also be free from pig products and their derivatives, zinc and other impurities.
“It should also be free from flour and salt blocks which indicate the lack of good mixing of the dough,” added the Ministry of Commerce and Industry. “The bread must be completely baked through and free of burnt areas to retain its distinctive properties in terms of taste and aroma. Similarly, the bread must be of the same colour, shape and size. A five percent increase or decrease in these characteristics is allowed, but the bread crusts of the same variety must be identical and homogeneous.”
A food safety manager at a restaurant in Oman shed light on how the government ensured establishments that made and sold food followed the regulations issued to them.
“There are two types of inspections made by the government, primarily,” she said. “The first is a standard inspection, where the inspection team tells us they are coming and so we plan accordingly. The second is a surprise inspection, which is designed to see if we are following the rules all the time. Of course, if there is an emergency, then too, we need to prepare for an inspection, because it means we may have unknowingly sold spoiled food or someone could have been sick after eating our food.
“The inspectors check all the surfaces, all the appliances, all the areas of cooking,” she added. “Then they check the storage areas and the freezers. All these must be clean, and there should be no presence of fungus, insects or any foreign bodies. All of the cooking surfaces and appliances must be clean. If they are, you have passed the inspection, but if not, then the government will give you a warning and perhaps issue a fine. You then have a certain amount of time to fix the things that are wrong. If you don’t, there will be another fine and stronger punishments.”