The Qatar General Organisation for Standards and Metrology has urged all food producers, distributors and vendors to adhere strictly to the conditions and standards for the sale of food items in the country.
A statement issued by the organisation yesterday reiterated the need to abide by the approved standards for packaging materials of all kinds.
The call comes in the wake of complaints from several quarters that the sellers of food, particularly restaurants and cafeterias, are not complying with the official guidelines for packaging and serving food.
Among the prohibited materials for food packaging are polyethylene bags and newspapers. The organisation has warned restaurants, cafeterias and coffee shops against the use of cups, dishes or cutlery that are not conforming to the approved standards.
Qatar News Agency quoted Dr Mohamed bin Saif al-Kuwari, director of the Laboratories and Standardisation Department at the Ministry of Environment, as saying that the new call was issued “as part of implementing the organisation’s strategy for the year 2010-2020, which includes its vision at the national level in terms of the preparation of regulations, accreditation and work on the application of the specifications of goods and products”.
Earlier, the Ministry of Environment had imposed a blanket ban on the use of foam for serving hot food and drinks, and laid down new requirements for plastic and paper used for this purpose.
Accordingly, all plastic or paper cups and plates used for serving hot food and beverages are now required to carry a note saying they are suitable for the purpose. This rule also applies to plastic and foam products used for packaging cold food and drinks. Foam is permitted only for cold food.
Strict penalties have been prescribed for violators of the rules. Though a ban had been imposed several years ago by the authorities, many eateries are reported to be still using plastic and foam cups, boxes and plates for serving hot food and drinks.
The ban is being implemented in association with the Joint Food Monitoring Committee at the Supreme Council of Health.
In September last year, the authorities made it mandatory for all bakeries to use food grade plastic for packaging hot bread after a decision by the Minister of Public Health to ban the use of polyethylene, newspapers or other types of paper for food packaging was approved by the Cabinet. According to the new rules, it should be clearly written on each product whether it is intended for packaging hot or cold food to help consumers check whether the food is packed in a healthy and safe way.
Only food grade plastic is permitted for packaging hot food and drinks.
Plastic and foam cups used for cold drinks should also have a notification in Arabic and English saying it is suitable for cold food. This should be written in sky blue colour in a prominent manner.
Paper cups and boxes can be used for hot food and drinks only if they clear a “heavy metal test” to show that they don’t contain harmful substances. Importers should produce a certificate from an authorised laboratory as proof. Aluminium plates and cups have been exempted from the rule for the time being.
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