In a bid to improve standards of hygiene in restaurants, the Supreme Council of Health (SCH) is increasing the number of spot checks on food outlets and has launched a hotline for residents to report food poisoning.
The council is responsible for monitoring food establishments and implementing Qatar’s food laws along with the Ministry of Municipality and Urban Planning (MMUP/Baladiya).
In a statement, the SCH said it has embarked on an intensive inspection campaign, collecting food samples from all restaurants and food outlets in the country including suppliers.
The inspection teams, which include specialized doctors from the SCH’s communicable diseases department and the environmental health inspection department, will also medically test workers responsible for preparing food to ensure they are not carrying infections.
Those found to be handling food in an unhygienic way would be immediately sacked, the Gulf Times added.
Residents who wish to report cases of food poisoning can use the SCH’s new hotline mobile numbers – 6674 0948 and 6674 0951. Once a report is filed, a team from the SCH will visit the affected people, then inspect the related food outlet and collect samples for laboratory examination.
The crackdown follows reports last week of a family of four which suffered food poisoning after eating chicken, rice and salad at the popular Habeeb’s Turkish restaurant on Commercial Road in the Old Airport area.
The SCH closed down the restaurant until further notice, and yesterday said that a medical report prepared by its environmental health section confirmed that the outlet served contaminated food and violated health regulations.
Tests conducted in the Central Food Laboratory at SCH found three types of bacteria causing diseases in food served by the restaurant. Medical tests on the victims also showed that they were infected by the same bacteria, as well as one of the workers of the eatery, the SCH said.
Habeeb’s will remain closed until inspectors are satisfied that it has taken all necessary measures to sufficiently improve hygiene standards.
As part of the SCH’s new campaign, experts will undertake community awareness drives, and organize seminars and training sessions about food contamination to improve understanding among owners and workers in food establishments.
Both the SCH and the MMUP have recently stepped up efforts to monitor hygiene levels in Qatar’s restaurants and food shops and take action against those who break the law.
Just over a week ago, MMUP ordered the temporary closure of a branch of the popular Filipino/Chinese restaurant Chowking in Dar Al Salam mall in Abu Hamour after inspectors found rotten vegetables in its kitchens.
And an outlet of the Italian chain of eateries Vanellis in Muaither was also closed for 10 days by the MMUP for “violating the provisions of the food law.” Photographs posted on the ministry’s website and on Twitter show a takeaway bowl of pasta with insects inside of it.
The branch of another popular Turkish takeaway, Marmara Istanbul in Bin Omran, was closed down by the MMUP last month for up to two months after several residents were treated in the hospital for food poisoning symptoms including intense nausea, vomiting and diarrhea.
The MMUP has recently been taking a harder line on restaurants which breach Qatar’s food, upping the number of spot-checks and naming and shaming erring establishments in Arabic on its website.
In February, amendments to the food law gave greater powers to authorities to fine and close down venues that break the law.
The MMUP, in partnership with the relevant municipality, can order the temporary closure of a restaurant, cafe or food outlet if it has has violated food safety and hygiene regulations.