Muscat: More than 650 restaurants, cafes and food storage facilities have been inspected in a single week, according to the Ministry of Regional Municipalities and Water Resources.
The inspections were carried out throughout the Sultanate during the Holy Month of Ramadan, as part of Oman’s municipalities efforts to increase inspections of restaurants and coffee shops within the country.
“Our goal is for consumers to find safe and healthy food and to increase the level of health awareness at establishments that deal with food,” Dr Saif Al Yaqoobi, director of the department of food control at the Ministry of Regional Municipalities and Water Resources, told Times of Oman.
According to data released by the Ministry, at least 686 establishments were inspected between the first day of Ramadan on May 7 up until May 14.
The inspection campaigns, which included factories, ports, restaurants and markets, resulted in the closure of 18 food establishments which were found to have food that was “unfit for human consumption.”
The push for more inspections came as a result of an increase in the amount of unhygienic food during the month of Ramadan compared to other months.
Al Yaqoobi confirmed to Times of Oman that the amount of food prepared in unhygienic conditions increases during Ramadan.
“As demand increases for foodstuffs and meals, the ministry had to implement a programme that intensified field monitoring and surveillance of markets and stores. Experts also monitored the foods at restaurants and coffee shops that prepare Ramadan foods to make sure that they fulfil all requirements.” Al Yaqoobi said.
“The most important of these requirements is a proper permit, health cards for employees, and food being prepared in the designated areas,” added Al Yaqoobi.
Earlier this week, Rustaq Municipality announced that it confiscated 2,889 bottles of the drink Laban as they were “unfit for human consumptions,” Similarly, Samail Municipality also destroyed 742 bottles of Laban which were rotten due to the poor level of storage.
Last week, the Directorate General for Municipalities in Al Dakhiliya announced that expatriate workers were caught preparing Ramadan dishes at a house on a farm in Bidbid.
In another incident, a number of expats were also arrested for selling vegetables unhygienically in Musannah. The food control team at the Wajaj border port perform 24-hour inspections of trucks passing through the border. Between May 8 to 11, the team inspected and released 253 trucks carrying goods into the country, after ensuring the validity of the food items.
Similarly, between May 7 to 11 the department of food control at Sohar Port inspected 161 containers of foodstuff which passed through the port.
In the wake of these incidents and the ministry’s efforts, Al Yaqoobi had a message for people in Oman.
“Our advice is to make sure you deal with certified establishments, make sure that your own storage and transport of food is safe, and make sure to report any food violations via the ministry’s hotline: 24600700.”