The municipalities of Sharjah and Ajman have warned food outlets  and manufacturers against hiking prices of essential commodities — a violation of food safety regulations — before and during the holy month of Ramadan .
The municipalities have already started intensifying inspections to ensure food safety jointly with the Ministry of Economy to ensure that prices are not increased arbitrarily during the holy month. They also urged retail outlets to reduce prices of commodities during Ramadan and to prevent price manipulation.
Officials at the Consumer Protection Department in the Ministry of Economy  said, in coordination with the municipalities in the country, the ministry would publish warnings in English and Arabic at all commercial outlets and even in newspapers against exploiting the festive occasion of Ramadan by increasing the prices of vegetables, meat, dry fruits and other popular items.
The municipalities advised shoppers in both emirates to check the expiry dates of the food items being sold as part of Ramadan promotions in hypermarkets.
Ajman Municipality Director- General Yahiya Al Rayasa said circulars had been sent out to all bakeries, supermarkets, meat shops and fruit and vegetable markets. Food outlets would be asked to display the prices of items approved by the Ministry of Economy, he said.
Health department inspectors had already started the food safety inspections targeting restaurants, cafeterias, cafes, mobile vendors and all food outlets to ensure all were abiding by food safety regulations. Al Rayasa said the Ajman Municipality had an annual programme to follow up and control local markets in the emirate that included inspections and a 24-hour public communication system which received complaints through the Tawasul Centre , which was recently established for this purpose.
Municipality inspectors would not tolerate those found flouting the rules and endangering the lives of consumers, he said. Errant outlets and restaurants would pay hefty fines and be subject to closure.
During last year’s Ramadan, inspectors found most outlets were following the health rules and Ministry of Economy’s regulation of price control. “There was also no closure of any of the outlets,” he said.
Al Rayasa said due to the summer temperatures , the inspectors would also focus on any outlets, groceries, supermarkets, and restaurants found disconnecting power overnight in an attempt to save money.
Sharjah Municipality Health and Environment Department Director Dr Rasha Al Qasimi said in Sharjah the municipality organised two types of inspection campaigns, including one targeting supermarket and grocery stores to ensure they were not turning the power off overnight and ensuring the cooling systems were in good condition. The other campaign was to target the food markets including cafeterias and restaurants and ensure they were following health regulations such as maintaining hygiene and proper ventilation.
She stressed the inspections were being carried out throughout the year, but there was a special programme in place for occasions such as Ramadan, Eid and the summer time. Dr Al Qasimi said inspections from May to June resulted in 5,392 violations, which varied from cheating violations to violating hygiene and health rules.
She added that penalties for errant businesses included warnings, temporary closure, and even permanent closure very serious cases.
“The inspections to end practices of power disconnection at food outlets during night will continue during the summer as inspectors will start their duties in the early hours of the morning.”
Inspectors would also provide workers and owners of the outlets with awareness information about the proper storing of food items and ways to improve health levels, she said. During Ramadan, inspectors will work in three shifts from 9am to 1am over the whole week, in order to cover all areas, alongside the emergency section that receives complaints around the clock.