By Elizabeth Broomhall
Authorities in Yanbu detected 45 cases of bacterial contamination
Authorities in the Saudi Arabian town of Yanbu are stepping up their inspections of local restaurants this year after detecting 45 cases of bacterial contamination in 2011, local media have reported.
The municipality shut down 10 restaurants during the year for health and safety violations, after some 18 workers were found to have been infected by bacteria, including E. coli, according to a report in Arab News.
“The municipality is giving top priority to ensure environment health, as it is directly related to public health,” Abdul Aali Al-Sheikh, head of the Yanbu municipality told the daily.
“Subsequently, we will intensify raids on restaurants, food warehouses, and candy stores to ensure that they are preparing dishes and keeping foodstuffs in hygienic conditions.”
Of those workers with bacterial infections, some 14 had infected E. coli. The municipality said those affected were barred from working at eateries until they recovered, and that all workers were subsequently required to undergo medical tests.
Authorities reportedly took the necessary measures to prevent the spread of the disease, and ordered all restaurant owners to sterilize their shops before resuming operations.
Officials also warned that where cases of infectious diseases such as hepatitis were detected, those affected with the disease would be deported and eateries found violating health and safety laws would be subject to jail terms or fines.
The issue of cleanliness in restaurants has also proved problematic in other Gulf countries, where a spate of food poisoning outbreaks has pushed the issue of restaurant hygiene to the fore.
Last July, the food control authority in UAE-capital Abu Dhabi said it closed 24 restaurants and issued 63 warnings between the start of 2010 and mid-2011, in a clampdown on “third class” eateries flouting basic hygiene rules.
Among the top reasons for restaurant closures were insect infestations, overflowing sewage pipes and unlicensed operations, officials said, warning they would take a tough stance on negligence or legal violations regardless of the size, reputation or popularity of the food outlets.
Two popular eateries were closed in the emirate in one month alone, for what the food control authority described as shocking breaches of food safety.
In a nationwide effort to improve food safety, the UAE’s Ministry of Environment and Water announced plans last July to introduce a federal food safety law.