(MENAFN - Jordan Times) A rise in the number of reported health violations at restaurants is due to the fact that the Jordan Food and Drug Administration (JFDA) took charge of inspecting "tourist" restaurants only recently, according to an official.
These restaurants fell under the jurisdiction of a committee affiliated with the Ministry of Tourism which "failed to carry out its duty properly", the official told The Jordan Times.
The official, who declined to be identified, said several separate committees, including the one that oversees over 1,200 tourist restaurants, are entrusted with monitoring food safety outside the auspices of the JFDA, claiming that this division of authority has hindered the administration's work and led to numerous violations.
"This committee was supposed to inspect all these restaurants, which also include fast-food chains, but no campaigns were conducted leading to violations of food safety regulations," the source said.
A source at the Ministry of Tourism confirmed that the committee had not inspected all of the restaurants under its jurisdiction, but said this was due to the fact that the panel was understaffed.
"There are eight members on this committee and they cannot inspect all restaurants," the source, who asked to remain unnamed, told The Jordan Times, adding that the panel had a plan to inspect "two or three restaurants every week during Ramadan".
The other official, however, alleged that there had been no inspections at all, adding that some restaurant owners register their businesses as tourist restaurants to evade the scrutiny of the JFDA.
The source told The Jordan Times that the Ministry of Health had submitted a proposal to the Prime Ministry last year to disband this committee and refer its tasks to the JFDA, "but the proposal was rejected".
Minister of Health Abdul Latif Wreikat confirmed this and told The Jordan Times that he planned to re-submit the proposal and follow up on it.
JFDA Food Director Mohammad Khreisha said the administration began detecting violations in tourist restaurants at the beginning of Ramadan when a customer told the administration that he had eaten at one of these eateries and come down with food poisoning.
As food poisoning is an indicator of food safety violations, he said, the JFDA decided to inspect the restaurant, "although it is not part of our mandate".
The discovery of violations in that restaurant prompted the health ministry and the JFDA to conduct a series of inspections on all restaurants, regardless of their classification or which committee was authorised to monitor them.
In less than a week, they registered more than 60 violations, according to JFDA figures.
Meanwhile, Wreikat stressed that the JFDA teams will do their work and will not give in to any pressure to stop doing their job properly.
"After shops receive warnings because of violations, they publish ads in the newspapers announcing that they have no violations," the minister explained, noting that some of these shops were referred to court after publishing these ads.
"They are not only violating food safety regulations, but they also lie about being warned," he noted.
He also noted that the JFDA's inspection teams will conduct campaigns in the southern region this week. Last week's campaigns were in Amman, Irbid and Zarqa.