BEIRUT: Recent circulations of lists accusing specific restaurants of food safety violations are the work of “sick minds” that wish to target the industry, the head of the Restaurant Owners Association said Tuesday.
“There is a calculated campaign against restaurants,” Paul Ariss told the The Daily Star. “Only the [judiciary] has the right to publish the names ... so we do wonder where those people with sick minds have got these names.”
Several lists containing names of restaurants supposedly on a “blacklist” for selling spoiled food have been passed around via SMS and social media websites in recent days, following a series of well-publicized confiscations of spoiled food by the Economy Ministry’s Consumer Protection Office.
In the latest incident, four tons of spoiled meat was seized from a store in the Beirut southern suburb of Shiyah Wednesday, and the store’s owner was taken into custody.
Ariss added that he supported the naming of restaurants that violated food safety regulations, once the cases had been completed.
“Those people who do not play the game by the rules are harming the whole industry, so they have to get out of the way,” he said.
But he defended the majority of restaurants, and said the culprits were unlikely to be major or chain restaurants.
“Most restaurants, maybe 90 percent, have a regular well-known supplier who provides them with regular good-quality products,” he said. “Those people who have been caught, what we know is that their clients used to deliver their products to some entities in very, very limited areas, but not well-known restaurants.”
Ariss added that personnel in restaurants may not always be to blame.
“Let’s say that chefs who are in charge of receiving the products in the restaurants, they were mistaken, they were duped by the supplier,” he said.
However, according to consumer protection law, any employees involved in the handling of food or other goods are considered experts and must be aware of the quality of the produce they are handling.
Ariss said more than half of the restaurants in Greater Beirut were currently in the process of hiring food safety consultants to train their personnel on food safety standards and their application.
The Economy Ministry’s Consumer Protection Office held a seminar Thursday on the occasion of World Consumer Rights Day.
Fouad Fleifel, the head of the office, said the ministry was working to increase the inspection work of the office, including “enhancing the CPO’s human resources.”
Fleifel has said the office requires at least 200 more inspectors to add to the 142 it currently has overseeing consumer protection.