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An average of roughly one out of every 20 inspections of food establishments in Qatar’s capital last year turned up a breach of health and hygiene laws, government officials say.

The Ministry of Municipality and Urban Planning (MMUP) said 26,055 surprise inspections were conducted at various restaurants, eateries, juice stalls and food stores across Doha in 2015.

Those visits led to 1,294 citations under Law No. (3) of the year 1975 covering health and hygiene regulations, the ministry said in a statement on its Facebook page yesterday. In some cases, businesses were caught handled food without a proper licence, it added.

The ministry temporarily closed 161 eateries in Doha for health and food control violations last year. Slightly more than half (85) were in the Industrial Area, the statement added.

For illustrative purposes only

MMUP

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Temporary closures can last up to 60 days, with the possibility of being extended if the eatery does not adequately address the violation, according to MMUP’s website.

Inspectors also ordered 5,721 tons of food products destroyed because it had either expired, was spoiled or violated specification standards, the statement added.

Around 800 food samples were sent to the lab for testing. Results showed that 745 samples were fit for human consumption, 11 samples were unfit for human consumption, and 44 that violated specification standards.

Prominent closures

In November, several well-known eateries were temporary shut down for health violations including a branch of dessert shop Gelato Mondo, located on Najma street, which was shut down for 15 days for having “spoiled food.”

Additionally, a branch of Yellow Cab Pizza in Dar Al Salam Mall was closed for 15 days for having “expired food” in its kitchen. Al Tabkha at the Pearl-Qatar was closed for 30 days for a similar offence.

The popular Chowking restaurant in Dar Al Salam Mall was shut down the same month for 14 days for preparing food under “unsanitary circumstances.”

In October, The Muaither outlet of Gad restaurant adjacent to Aspire Park was shut down for two months, after MMUP officials found that the food was being stored in filthy containers, and that meat was left uncovered.

Pizza Hut in Umm Salal

MMUP's official website

Pizza Hut in Umm Salal

Earlier in September, a Pizza Hut branch in Umm Salal was closed for 15 days for preparing food under “unsanitary circumstances.” The MMUP posted a picture on its website at the time of what appeared to be a human hair on a piece of fried chicken.

A part of the large four-star rated restaurant , the Orient Pearl on the Corniche, was also shut after videos circulated online of stray cats roaming around in the restaurant’s shawarma and fast food kitchen.

MMUP’s inspections extended beyond restaurants.

Fruit unfit for human consumption at Central Market

MMUP official FB page

Fruit unfit for human consumption at Central Market

Nine tons of fruit deemed “unfit for human consumption” were destroyed by the control unit at the Central Market.

The MMUP a statement said that some of the fruits had an acceptable color, appearance and odor. However, a more thorough inspection revealed that many items were actually inedible.

Residents who believe they have suffered food poisoning from a restaurant can report their cases to the Supreme Council of Health hotline at 6674-0948 and 6674-0951.

Thoughts?

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hvirvelvind2008/Flickr

Photo for illustrative purposes only.

Qatar’s government has launched plans to construct seven new “integrated communities” for blue-collar workers that will accommodate a total of 179,000 residents across the country.

On Thursday, officials from the Ministry of Municipality and Urban Planning (MMUP) signed an agreement with three private developers to begin construction on the first phase of the initiative in Umm Slal, northeast of Doha.

The 251-acre site will be developed as a complete town containing mosques, medical buildings, laundry areas, catered dining halls and other amenities. When it’s completed by the end of 2017, it will be able to accommodate some 24,000 men, officials said at a press conference this week.

Future phases are planned for Birkat Al-Awamar, Al Khor, Umm Ghuwailina, Al Wakrah and Al Shamal.

“Qatar is keen to meet all the needs of workers by providing them with accommodations that allow them to lead a dignified life,” Jamal Shareeda Al-Kaabi, the director of MMUP’s Central Planning Office, said in a presentation.

Tackling housing issues

For many, scenes of overcrowded and unsanitary labor camps lined with bunk beds have come to symbolize the abuse of Qatar’s blue-collar expats, which Amnesty International said this week remains “rampant” across the country.

Photo for illustrative purposes only.

J. Zach Hollo

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Local authorities have attempted to tackle the issue by requiring contractors working on World Cup stadiums and training facilities, as well as Qatar Foundation projects, to meet minimum living and working standards that go above and beyond Qatar’s laws.

Additionally, the government and state-backed developers have constructed new purpose-built laborer communities, such as Barwa Al Baraha and the recently completed Labor City in the Industrial Area, that consist of low-rise apartment buildings close to amenities aimed at low-income expats.

Labor City

Peter Kovessy

Labor City

But some human rights activists have argued that Qatar’s labor housing woes are merely a symptom of the country’s restrictive sponsorship system, which makes it difficult for expats to change jobs, leave the country or seek legal redress if they’re mistreated by their employers.

Replacing older camps

In total, Labor City, Barwa Al Baraha and the Umm Slal complex – as well as the future phases of the housing complexes announced Thursday that have yet to be contracted out – will accommodate some 325,000 residents.

Photo for illustrative purposes only.

Penny Yi Wang / Doha News

Photo for illustrative purposes only.

To put that number into context, there were nearly 631,000 expat men working in Qatar’s construction industry last year, in addition to 131,000 in the manufacturing sector, according to government statistics.

While not all of the country’s blue-collar workforce will be able to live in Qatar’s new model laborer communities, the developers involved in the Umm Slal project said they hope the new options will spell the end of some of Qatar’s more decrepit housing complexes:

“We won’t substitute every (existing) labor camp,” Jassim Abdulla Al Mesned, chairman of property management firm Shaqab, told Doha News. “But surely, it will substitute any camp which does not follow the minimum requirements (for) labor camps … in Qatar.”

However, some have questioned whether Qatar’s most vulnerable expats would end up living in these new developments.

Critics have suggested that the companies willing and able to pay a premium to house their employees in areas such as Labor City are most likely to be large firms that treat their staff better than some smaller subcontractors or staffing firms.

To mitigate this issue, Al-Kaabi said the monthly rent at the Umm Slal complex would be capped at QR650 per person.

A first in Qatar

Officials declined to discuss how much the Umm Slal project or future developments would cost to construct, apart from saying that the government would chip in QR1.6 billion to build new roads and utilities for all seven sites.

For illustrative purposes only.

New Port Project / Facebook

For illustrative purposes only.

The three developers – Shaqab, as well as Redco and Gulf Systems – will finance, construct and operate these facilities for 15 years, during which time they will keep the rental revenue they collect. At the end of the agreement, the properties will be turned over to the government.

This is the first time this type of public-private partnership will be used to build a housing project of this scale in Qatar, officials said at the press conference, adding it gives the developers an incentive to complete construction on time.

“The sooner they start, the sooner they can start earning a return,” Al-Kaabi said.

Thoughts?

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Elysia Windrum

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Several prominent eateries in Qatar have been temporarily closed by authorities this month, after authorities reported finding rotten or expired food in their kitchens.

This week, a branch of the famous dessert shop Gelato Mondo, located on Najma street in the Al Hilal area, was shut down for 15 days for having “spoiled food,” the Ministry of Municipality and Urban Planning (MMUP) said on its website.

Gelato Mondo

MMUP

Gelato Mondo

In a statement on its Facebook page, the ministry added that the food at the ice cream store “violated specification standards and was unfit (for human consumption) after its natural characteristics changed.”

Speaking to Doha News, a manager at Gelato Mondo, which also has a City Center mall kiosk across from Carrefour, said that an employee left a pack of rotten strawberries in the refrigerator in the shop that was found by MMUP inspectors.

He said that the strawberries weren’t being used as a gelato topping or in the desserts, and that the staff had intended to throw them away.

Others shut down

The MMUP has shut several popular eateries temporarily in the past few weeks, including a branch of Yellow cab pizza in Dar Al Salam mall, which was closed for 15 days for selling “expired food.”

Yellow Cab Pizza temporarily closed.

MMUP official website

Yellow Cab Pizza temporarily closed.

According to a picture on the ministry’s website, the restaurant had garlic powder that expired in July of this year in its kitchen, in addition to other expired ingredients.

On Nov. 4, the MMUP also closed Lebanese restaurant Al Tabkha at the Pearl-Qatar for 30 days for having “expired food” in its kitchen.

Chowking

MMUP

Chowking

Meanwhile, the popular Chowking restaurant in Dar Al Salam mall was shut down for 14 days for preparing food under “unsanitary circumstances,” according to MMUP’s website.

This is not the first time that branch of the Filipino/Chinese restaurant has been in trouble.

Last year, it was closed for 10 days after food  inspectors found rotten vegetables in the kitchen.

Other less prominent restaurants that were temporarily in recent days include Bangs Fried Chicken in Al Sadd, which was shut down for ten days, and Niece restaurant and Juice shop in Al Mansoura/Fereej Bin Dirham, which was shut for the maximum allowable time of 60 days.

The reason behind their closure was “preparing food under unsanitary circumstances” and selling food “unfit for human consumption,” according to MMUP’s statement.

Central market

This week, MMUP also cracked down on produce sold at the Central Market, where around nine tons of fruit deemed “unfit for human consumption” were seized by the food control unit, the ministry said in a statement on its Facebook page.

Fruit unfit for human consumption at Central Market

MMUP official FB page

Fruit unfit for human consumption at Central Market

It added that some of the fruits’ properties were intact in terms of color, appearance and odor. However, a more thorough inspection revealed that many items were actually inedible.

For example, black spots were found inside the plums, peaches and nectarines, while the inside of the watermelon had blemishes and was very soft.

The destroyed produced included 400 watermelons from Lebanon, 567 boxes of Turkish plums, 1,190 boxes of Syrian peaches and 1,200 boxes of Syrian nectarines, according to the statement.

Previous closures

In recent years, the Baladiya has been cracking down on eateries that flout food regulations.

While residents were initially skeptical about whether all restaurants would receive fair treatment, the ministry does seem to be closing all types of food outlets.

Pizza Hut in Umm Salal

MMUP's official website

Pizza Hut in Umm Salal

In September, several prominent eateries were temporarily shut down for sanitary reasons, including a Pizza Hut branch in Umm Salal and part of the Orient Pearl.

A part of the large four-star rated restaurant on the Corniche was closed after videos were circulated online of stray cats roaming around in the restaurant’s shawarma and fast food kitchen, located outside the main restaurant.

Residents who believe they have suffered food poisoning from a restaurant can report their cases to the Supreme Council of Health hotline at 6674 0948 and 6674 0951.

Thoughts?