The raids on restaurants and cafes conducted by the Jeddah municipality in the past couple of weeks are the talk of the town.
Many owners of eateries in Jeddah have complained of highhandedness on the part of municipal inspectors who have raided their premises.
These inspectors walk in arrogantly, accuse the owner or the employees and brag about how they have the power to shut down the restaurant and publicize its shortcomings.
The municipal authorities have now raised the challenge further by stating that they can close any establishment without prior warning.
We are clearly all for cleanliness and public hygiene, but there are things that can be done and methods that can be applied before it is necessary for a municipal inspector to enter a restaurant.
In one case, a municipal inspector asked the owner of one of Jeddah’s fish restaurants to label on the menu where each fish served in the restaurant originated from! The owner replied that he gets all of his fish from Jeddah’s fish market and wondered why he was required to know about the origin of the fish since it was the responsibility of the municipality to supervise the fish market.
It is well known that Jeddah’s municipality-controlled fish market, which is the source of fish served to the public in restaurants, is dirty, totally unhygienic, foul smelling and of course highly unorganized.
The fish restaurant owner said that the utensils used in the fish market need to be washed and disinfected and that the workers need to be given medical tests!
Let me reiterate that we all are for hygiene because our health is of crucial importance to all of us.
However, the municipality should apply a more professional method of monitoring and supervising the quality and standards of the food industry.
Just the other day, a local paper on its front page focused on the Al-Khumra area of Jeddah where waste material and animal carcasses abound.
It seems that the municipality is not in a rush to alleviate the sufferings of the people of that area. Other matters of hygiene should also be focused on.
While the municipality is not responsible for the city’s drainage or gutter system, the overflow of sewage especially in areas where there are eateries creates a germ-infested environment.
On a recent walk in the Balad area, it was observed that there was sewage on the street near the park next to the lagoon where families gather and children play.
When sewage dries on the street airborne particles can spread disease. Therefore, I would humbly ask the municipality to clean up such spills with detergents and disinfectants.
There are many areas suffering from such sewage leaks. For example, I am sure that Jeddah’s Al-Khalidiya market has over 200 different types of bacteria surrounding it.
Even if a restaurant there is clean, the overflow of drainage in the street nearby can spread germs and bacteria causing health risks to the public.
Indeed that area needs more attention and even the streets around it need repairs.
Another area that is in dire need of cleanliness is the beginning of the Corniche near the desalination plant where many restaurants are located.
The place smells of drainage and again I request our active municipal employees to clean up the place and to fine building owners who let drainage pollute the area outside restaurants.
The point I am making is that, yes, we all are for public hygiene but the methods used in the raids on restaurants and cafes need to be reconsidered.
Monitoring should be done in a more professional manner. Bullying and arrogant threats of deportation or closure are totally unacceptable.
Clear and logical rules and regulations should be established and strict standards and procedures applied.
Municipality inspectors have a responsibility to conduct their duties efficiently and professionally. The public needs their services and respect.