Public health officials in Abu Dhabi, the capital city of the United Arab Emirates, announced over the weekend that they will inspect more food establishments in 2010 to boost local food safety efforts.

Abu Dhabi spent much of past year cracking down on food safety violators after a string of highly publicized food poisonings. The Abu Dhabi Food Control Authority (ADFCA) recently proposed a law that would allow it to impose tougher sanctions against food sellers and restaurant owners for violating the city’s hygiene regulations, and the authority recently touted more regulatory action against violators.

The ADFCA announced that it performed 60,000 spot

checks, issued 15,000 warnings and imposed 800 fines on eateries across

the emirate in 2009.

Officials also temporarily shut down 76

restaurants and grocery stores for food safety violations.

The ADFCA statistics were released for the first time this year, so it is unclear exactly how they compare to past years, but by almost all accounts the government is becoming much more stringent on the food safety front.

A local daily in Abu Dhabi reported yesterday that the ADFCA has begun using media exposure to prompt food establishments to take food safety seriously by releasing the names of violators.

“Fear of exposure in the media has been a factor in merchants’ cleaning up their businesses,”  noted The National.

“A lot of them do not want to fall in the circle of fines and closures which harms the name of the establishment and reduces its customers,” said Mohammed al Reyaysa, a spokesman for ADFCA.

In addition to ramping up inspections and enforcing the new, stricter regulations expected to take effect early this year, the authority also stressed the importance of consumer education as part of their overall food safety strategy.