10 Jun 2018 - 9:58
Restaurants to display more info on menus
DOHA: The Ministry of Economy and Commerce, in cooperation with the Ministry of Public Health, yesterday announced to launch an initiative to regulate information relating to food and beverage menus of restaurants and cafes.
The initiative compels all restaurants and cafes to display mandatory information on food, meals and beverages, so that consumers can choose the most appropriate items by knowing about nutritional value of food and beverages.
“The initiative comes within the framework of the state’s efforts, represented by the Ministry of Economy and Commerce, and the Ministry of Public Health, to ensure the adoption of best international practices in the field of consumer health by identifying the elements that should be included in the menus of meals and beverages offered for sale,” said the Ministry.
According to the Ministry of Economy and Commerce’s circular, shops selling food, meals and beverages should comply with two sets of obligations. The first set includes general obligations that apply to all restaurants, cafes and similar shops, regarding the presentation of mandatory data on food, meals and beverages.
The second set of obligations applies only to shops with international networks, under the franchising system, and includes the display of calorie count of meals and beverages offered to consumers.
This initiative falls under the duties of the Ministry of Economy and Commerce pursuant to the provisions of Article (3) of the Implementing Regulations of Law No. (8) of 2008 on Consumer Protection.
“Article (3) compels the supplier when presenting any commodity to clearly display, depending on the nature of the product, data such as the name, type, nature, ingredients and quantity of the commodity, whether in terms of weight, measurement, number, quantity, calorie count or standard, or any other measures that affect the value of the commodity as well as data relating to the country of origin,” said the Ministry.
The Ministry said that the general obligations applicable to all restaurants, traditional food outlets, cafes and cafeterias involve the display of mandatory data relating to food and meals, which include, among other labels, the type of the meal and the country of origin in the description of food components provided to consumers, whether the meal consists of meat, chicken, fish or others.
The data should also include a description of the condition of the ingredients such as if the meat, chicken and fish are fresh, refrigerated or frozen. It is also mandatory to clearly display the weight of main meat, chicken and fish meals.
The Ministry’s circular has outlined several options when it comes to presenting data and information on food, meals and beverages, according to each store’s policy, the packaging method and how menus are displayed.
The circular stipulates that data should be prominently displayed to enable consumers to read it in full clarity and to exercise their right to choose the food with the calorie count and ingredients that are in line with their aspirations and the nature of their daily activity.
The circular specifically emphasises consumers’ right to full knowledge of the quality of the ingredients used in the preparation of meals provided to the consumer.
The circular compels restaurants, cafes and similar shops to include all the necessary data in the menu such as the country of origin or the production of food ingredients including meat, chicken and fish and whether or not these are fresh, refrigerated or frozen.
The circular also stipulates that consumers should be provided with the weight of meat, poultry or fish meals provided as the main meal. The indicated weight should be taken after the meal is cooked or grilled when it comes to take away or in-house meals. Only shops that display meat, fish or other sea food for customers to choose from before cooking are allowed to weight food before it is cooked or grilled.
For the purpose of verifying weights, the circular compels concerned shops to provide a calibrated balance by the competent authorities at the Qatar General Authority for Standardization and Metrology.
The circular outlined the obligations of cafes, restaurants, cinemas, theaters and ice cream shops, under the franchising system. These shops are required to display the calorie count of the meals and beverages they offer to consumers.
The circular outlined four criteria to identify shops that are required to display calorie count (energy) data.
First, the cafe, restaurant or shop should be part of a multinational franchise defined above; Second, the franchise should involve more than five branches except when it comes to movie theaters that are required to display the calorie count regardless of the number of branches. Thirdly, branches must bear the same name. Fourth, all branches must adopt a single or similar menu.
Regarding the presentation of the calorie count and energy data on meals and beverages, the circular outlines three options: to place the data on the menu displayed at the restaurant or on the explanatory labels next to each type of food or drink, or on the menus that are delivered to customers.
With regard to the deadlines set for restaurants, cafes and similar shops to adjust their status, the Ministry indicated that the procedures included in the circular should be implemented in two stages, a pilot phase and a mandatory second stage.
The pilot phase will extend over six months starting from (10/06/2018), during which the ministry will coordinate with the owners of restaurants, cafes and similar outlets to adjust their status by including data relating to the country of origin, weight and the ingredients of food and beverage on menus offered to consumers.
The ministry will also coordinate with restaurants, cafes, theaters, cinemas and ice cream shops with a global network under the franchising system to include data on calories according to the specified methods.
The ministry will also coordinate, through specialized units, with concerned parties and hold training workshops in order to familiarize shops with their obligations and inform them of the correct methods to display food and beverage data.
After the expiry of the pilot phase, shops that fall under the Ministry of Economy and Commerce’s circular, will participate in the mandatory phase starting on December 10, this year. During this period, the owners of restaurants, cafes and similar stores will be obliged to submit the data on food, meals and beverages, as specified in this circular.
The Ministry has stressed that the owners of restaurants and cafes must comply during the pilot period in line with the provisions of Article (7) of Law No. (8) of 2008 on consumer protection, and Article (3) of the executive regulations.
The ministry said violators will be subject to penalties stipulated in law number 8 of 2008, which includes imprisonment for a period not exceeding two years and a fine ranging between QR3,000 and QR1,000,000, or one of these two penalties. The director of the competent department is also entitled to close the shops where the violation is committed for a period of up to three months.