Food safety inspectors close Chinese restaurants

A MEGA operation, entitled ‘Operação Oriental’, was staged last week by the Autoridade de Segurança Alimentar e Económica (ASAE), the authority for safety of commercial food and economic activities, involving no less than 64 inspection teams.

More than 130 Chinese restaurants were visited throughout the country, with six surprise inspections taking place in the Algarve. The national operation resulted in the closure of 14 establishments.

Ten of those Chinese restaurants were in the Lisbon and Vale do Tejo regions (one involved the expulsion of more than 100 diners), three were in the central region and one in the Alentejo. In addition, three criminal proceedings were instigated and 116 offences reported. Eighty-nine per cent of the restaurants inspected were found to be infringing food safety legislation.

Two-and-a-half tons of defective products were seized, the majority of which were beef, duck and chicken. Many restaurants were found to be ignoring the legislation regarding frozen food and, in regard to hygiene laws, bins without lids were found in use, as well as dirty sinks and a lack of facilities for kitchen staff to wash their hands. Rat-traps were found on food preparation surfaces, as well as open containers of rat poison.

Restaurants were found using food products pass their sell-by date and one establishment even stored food products that were 10 years pass their consumption date. Other ‘horrors’ included kitchen walls covered in grease, cockroaches behind refrigerators and defrosting meat dripping on the floor.

The offences could lead to the application of fines by ASAE, which could vary between 25 and 7,500 euros.

ASAE has announced it will be keeping “a close eye” on any new Chinese establishments opening due to the poor standards seen at the country’s existing restaurants of this genre. However, according to ASAE, no situations were found relating to the employment of illegal immigrants.

In addition to ‘Operação Oriental’, ASAE also swooped on various bakeries and cake shops last week. One bakery in Vialonga (Vila Franca de Xira near Lisbon) was shut down after inspectors found rats in the premises.