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Holon residents should be careful what they eat: More than half the 62 supermarkets and butcher shops in the city that need a license for selling food products don't have such a business license. The city's internal auditor found that in 2008, nine of Holon's 10 meat processing plants and nine of the 13 refrigeration plants operated without licenses last year. The city auditor's report for 2008 was released last week.

The businesses lacked licenses due to a long list of problems, including environmental, veterinary and engineering reasons - or a combination of a number of causes.

The city said the main reasons for not granting business licenses to stores that sell meat were minor matters such as illegally built awnings or the lack of a proper fire permit. However, the municipality said that "Under no circumstances [were the licenses not granted] for sanitation reasons."

As part of the inspections, the auditor and his staff examined 10 food stores in Holon, including supermarkets, butcher shops and fishmongers. Only one had a valid business license in 2008.

The veterinary department in the city's sanitation and environment division was the subject of other, no less serious findings in the report. The veterinary department is one of the main bodies involved in the licensing procedure for meat sales, and it merited an entire chapter in the auditor's report.

The veterinary department in Holon was much smaller than in other, similar-sized cities, including ones with fewer food stores, said the report. The department had only seven employees last year at the time of the examination. The department made an average of only 7.3 visits per year per store, even though the policy is to check at least once a month. The auditor also said that the veterinary department does not have proper, orderly procedures in place for supervising businesses. In addition, Holon has no city policy on the process of destroying meat products judged unfit for human consumption.

The main recommendations in the report were to increase the number of employees in the appropriate departments, to establish a computerized system to support the veterinary supervision of businesses in the city, to formulate procedures and plans for establishing a proper monthly examination of such businesses and establishing a citywide policy for dealing with businesses that do not meet licensing standards. In addition, the report made recommendations on dealing with unlicensed stray dogs suspected of being dangerous, and is following up on the matter.

The city's spokeswoman noted that Mayor Moti Sasson said at the last city council meeting that he would adopt the recommendations in the report and the city would take steps to correct the problems. She added that almost all the problems were minor and not related to sanitary conditions.

The city veterinarian said the employees involved in the supervision recently received training in carrying out these functions and they are now acting according to new rules he has written. However, it was almost impossible to meet the goal of monthly checks due to a lack of manpower, as well as other factors such as additional enforcement operations dictated by the state, said the city veterinarian. As to the problems with stray dogs, he said he held a meeting with the city counsel and since then the matter has been enforced.