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Sun 1 Apr 2007 04:22 PM

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Food authority clamps down

A new punitive fines system for hygiene violations has seen the number of restaurant closures plunge in Abu Dhabi.

A new punitive fines system for hygiene violations has seen the number of restaurant closures plunge in Abu Dhabi.

Ibrahim Hamza, food inspector for Abu Dhabi Food Control Authority (FCA) said the new fines system was proving successful in the emirate, as when an outlet is closed, it is then fined AED1000 (US $272) per day until it reaches acceptable hygiene standards. If the outlet had not reached these standards after five days, it is then fined an additional AED10,000 ($2723).

Hamza said the crackdown saw inspection teams visit food outlets without warning, and discovered serious offences including cockroaches, rodents, and dirty cooking facilities, leading to the shutting down of businesses. Clamping down on rogue restaurants had also strengthened the authority's position, he claimed.

"We implemented these fines in January to help businesses avoid health and safety violations and speed up corrective actions. There were 12 closures in January that dropped to just four for the month of February, so it's clear from the figures that the situation is improving," Hamza revealed.

The closures were predominantly among smaller cafes and fruit and vegetable stores, with the emirate's inspection units issuing a total of 1013 warnings and destroying 250kg of unfit food from food outlets in February.

As well as introducing these fines, Abu Dhabi FCA has also introduced the use of handheld PDAs for inspectors to record and update information about each outlet.

"These devices have allowed us to save time and have an accurate record of offences and steps taken to address them. Additionally the fines, which vary depending on how long businesses need to re-open, are a stringent measure to put regulations into effect," Hamza commented.

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