Bahrain alerts on fresh produce safety
Manama, June 30, 2013
Health officials in Bahrain have issued a warning against buying fruit and vegetables from street vendors amid fears they could be harmful.
Health inspectors will be out in force to ensure grocers follow Bahrain's hygiene laws - particularly during the summer, when there is a higher risk of contamination, a top official was quoted as saying in the Gulf Daily News (GDN), our sister publication.
Food stored and sold in Bahrain's scorching heat loses its nutritional values and could cause health problems.
It comes as a group of businessmen complained about hundreds of illegal vendors in an area of Manama.
They filed an official report with the Manama Municipality, Health Ministry, Hoora Police Station and Labour Market Regulatory Authority, which have joined forces to curb the growing problem of unlicensed vendors.
Authorities have confiscated more than 1,000 illegal portable stalls since the start of the year, said Manama Municipality inspection and follow-up section manager Mohammed Sa'ad Al Sehali.
"Street vendors have spread in this area, increasing the risk of illness due to improper storage," he said.
"There have been several complaints about illegal vendors in this block and we have started cracking down on them in co-operation with the Health Ministry. Campaigns are held randomly to capture as many violators as possible.
"They are also a threat to actual businesses and need to acquire licences from the municipality before they can even start selling products. Most of them are illegal and sell products which are not approved by the Health Ministry. We confiscate their products, from fruit and vegetables to clothes and toys, and they have to pay a penalty to get it back. Usually they don't come to claim it and we have to discard these things,” he added.
Al Sehali also advised people against buying food from illegal and unregistered vendors because they often have rotten products.
"People can get sick after eating vegetables and fruit which they buy from there, as it is rotten and kept in a place which is not clean and hygienic," he explained.
"Risk of contamination is higher and we urge people to stop buying their products for their own safety. The other problem in this area is leaking sewerage, and these vendors keep their products on top of it.
"It can cause food poisoning and other illnesses to adults and children. All vendors are under our radar and we will not stop until we take action against them."
According to figures from the Standardisation Organisation for GCC, vegetables should be stored between -1C and 21C, and fruits between -5C and 14C.
However, Bahrain's hot summer makes it impossible to store fresh fruit at the desired temperature.
Some businessmen have demanded stricter punishment against illegal vendors.
"We have complained to several authorities but they come to inspect and no one takes action against these vendors," said Al Reef Studio owner Thomas Mathew.
"They are right in front of my shop, blocking the road and causing trouble for my customers. They are coming in the morning, but the number increases in the evenings. There are hundreds of such vendors who sell products that are illegal.
"No one is doing anything about this place, which is full of illegal workers and vendors."
A restaurant owner, who wished to remain anonymous, accused illegal vendors of blocking parking spaces in front of businesses.
"People keep on honking and shouting but they don't remove their portable stalls," he said. The number of vendors keeps on increasing and authorities are not taking action against them. There must be a crackdown as they are all affecting our businesses." – TradeArabia News Service