The Emir has ratified amendments to Qatar’s food law, approving harsher punishments for restaurants and food outlets caught breaching safety regulations.
The changes to Law No. 8 of 1990, which are effective immediately, include an initial 60-day closure for violations – twice the previous limit of 30 days for a first offense; a reduction in the length of time to appeal, down from 15 days to 10; and a statement that the “violator” – presumably, the outlet’s owner – must bear the cost of the closure of the restaurant.
The law also gives officials at the Ministry of Environment the power to close food outlets for the first time. Previously, this could only be done by the Ministry of Municipality and Urban Planning (MMUP) and the Supreme Council of Health.
Naming and shaming
The amendments also stipulate that the restaurant’s name and details of its violation should be posted on the relevant ministry’s website, and a sign on the outside of the restaurant should also contain the same information.
Previously, when government ministries closed restaurants, no reason was given in the official notices posted outside of the eateries.
Qatar has been talking about naming and shaming restaurants for years.
The original food law states that a summary of punishments given to owners should be published “in one or two local newspapers at the expense of the sentenced.”
In 2012, the Ministry of Economy and Trade said it would begin requiring outlets that had received a violation to pay for and publish the news in local Arabic language newspapers.
Despite these formal announcements, public naming and shaming remains a rare event, with local media frequently carrying stories about recent restaurant closures without identifying the outlets involved.
New names for ministries
Alongside these amendments, the Emir also announced name changes for two prominent ministries yesterday.
In this latest move to reorganize and reshuffle governmental departments, the Supreme Council of Health has been renamed “The Ministry of General Health,”and The Ministry of Municipality and Urban Planning will now be known as “The Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Agriculture.”
The renaming of the two ministries follows a major revamp of Qatar’s ministries and councils, which was announced last week.