Muscat: Muscat Municipalities began enforcing a ban on the preparation and street sales of mishkak, a popular grilled food, last September.
Now, Muscat Municipality, in cooperation with authorities, is working to find a solution for street vendors, an official from the Municipality told Times of Oman (TOO).
“A proposal was offered by the municipality to provide special buildings for these activities, in accordance with health regulations in different locations, to better serve all wilayats in Muscat governorate,” the official said.
“In accordance with the local order (1/2006), we have announced in local papers that it is forbidden to sell products near streets and public places. Those who want to sell barbeque or vegetables, or others of that sort, should adhere to those health regulations, which were issued by administrative decision (68/2011),” the official added.
The decision was made because the municipality was receiving complaints about a lack of hygiene while food is prepared by street vendors. “The municipality had received many complaints from consumers complaining about ailments after eating the meat, noise in the area, waste left behind and smoke from the grills. Other complaints included the presence of vendors in public places, as well as vendors not displaying a municipality licence,” the official added.
The municipality’s decision has been mostly influenced by the lack of food hygiene among street vendors, and was also enforced to protect the health and safety of consumers and residents.
“The sellers operate in public and are always on the move, while not really complying with food safety rules- they store and display their food in unhealthy and unhygienic conditions, which are susceptible to direct sunlight or exposed to contamination from dust and passing vehicles, as well as different environmental factors which reduce the quality of the food,” the official said.
After asking a number of vendors to stop operating in various areas in Muscat, the municipality once again visited the Wilayat of Bausher about one month ago, and stopped more vendors from operating in the area. Mishkak has been sold on the streets, near beaches and in parks for a very long time, and this sudden ban on their operations has not been well received by some people who buy from
“I think this was the only real street food snack in Muscat, and I enjoyed it to no end. It was delicious and light. Very often I would go in search of them to the beaches and parks. However, now we do not know if we will ever get to buy them on the streets again,” said Nikhil, a resident of Oman who is originally from India, where street food thrives and is a major part of the economy.
Not everyone is upset, though. Some think it is the right move, keeping in mind safety and hygiene standards. “I loved the street mishkak, because we can’t always make barbecue by ourselves, so it is really easy to pick it up from one of the street vendors. A lot of their livelihood depends on this, as well. Plus it’s cheap and you can buy it while taking a stroll along the beach. However, I think that it will be nice if the Muscat Municipality can actually issue some guidelines for these vendors, instead of asking them to stop operating completely. That way we can still have a little street food culture,which is important for so many reasons, including tourism.” said Nadeem, an Omani citizen who works for a local bank.
“I am a fan of mishkak and hope to see it on the streets again, but I also care for my health, so I hope that they will also comply with health and safety standards, which are suited for both the consumers and the sellers,” said another resident.
Public health order provisions
Local order (1/2006) regarding the protection of public health states:
Article 15 states that it is forbidden to display any goods on the grounds of public places.
Article 34 lists some foodstuff items which can be considered damaging to health, including (1) if they are contaminated by microbes or become rotten or contain poisonous materials that are likely to be affected by disease; (2) if they came from a sick or dead animal; (3) if their packaging includes harmful materials which can affect consumer health; (4) if their composition is changed or their natural properties altered as to taste, smell or appearance; (5) if they contain plant or animal reside; (6) if their validity is expired; (7) if they contain excrements or other animal remains.
Article 38 states: No person shall practice any of the following activities and occupations without obtaining a municipal license, including restaurants, cafes, slaughter houses, animal yards, places for drying clothes, pastry shops, or any other jobs which will be fixed by a decision issued by the president of the municipality.