Wednesday, August 11, 2010


Saudi Arabia is a country known for its strict law enforcement in all areas of day today life and food is no exception. Generally such regulations are not strictly followed when large populations converge in a place and whose food and housing needs are to be met because of big strain on the enforcement personnel. But Saudi Arabia seems to be firm in their resolve to uphold the country's food regulations in letter and spirit. More than 13 million pilgrims make their annual visit to the holy city of Makkah every year during Haj season in November and one can imagine the strain on the resources of the local municipality which already has about 1.7 million population, in providing the required facilities for stay and every day food. It is a tribute to the country that it is unrelenting in its resolve to meet its obligations and the stringent steps being taken to ensure safety of foods are indeed laudatory.

Makkah Municipality has obliged all restaurants to install cameras in their kitchens and place large screens in obvious places so customers and municipal inspectors can see clearly how food is prepared. "We want to make sure that food served to customers, both citizens and foreigners, is healthy and prepared in a clean manner. We also want to be able to see the workers and check they themselves are clean," Mayor Dr Osama Al Bar told Gulf News on Thursday. He said the move was in line with the instructions of the Ministry of Rural and Municipal Affairs which is concerned about improving health standards in the region. The Mayor also pointed out that, under ministerial instructions, every restaurant is required to install a glass partition separating the dining area from the kitchen so that customers are able to see exactly how food is prepared. "These measures enable our supervisors to check what kind of food is being served to customers and how it's being prepared," Dr Al Bar said.He warned all violators would be subject to harsh punishments including closure of the restaurants.Meanwhile, an official source at the Presidency for the Affairs of the Two Holy Mosques has dismissed reports the holy Zamzam water might not be clean."These reports are false. The water is clean and healthy. People should not have any worries," he said. Speaking on condition of anonymity, the source added that the distribution of the holy water is being monitored round-the-clock to make sure it is fit for human use. "The presidency gives maximum care to the process of pumping and the distribution of Zamzam water. Random samples are being checked around-the-clock," he said. The blessed water is pumped out of the historic well via stainless steel pipes and filtered using ultra-violet technology. It's then transported to cooling stations before being distributed.The source asked all users to make sure their Zamzam water was hygienically stored.

Probably many pilgrim centers in India must take a leaf out of the example set by Makkah Municipality and invest some of their earnings in strengthening the infrastructure that supports the influx of pilgrims. The use of modern monitoring technology using close circuit television system and forcing the eateries to expose their kitchens to the customers are considered revolutionary. It is a pity that in almost all pilgrim centers in India, food and water pose the greatest danger because of the attitude of both the management authorities concerned as well as the caterers who seem to be more obsessed with making a quick buck exploiting the helplessness of the customers. Sooner this issue is addressed better it will be for millions of devotees who seek solace and comfort from hundreds of deities in different parts of the country.

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