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UAE Enhances Food & Drugs Safety Plans

Sajila Saseendran / 13 November 2009

DUBAI — The UAE will establish an independent federal body to determine and administer safety standards for food and pharmaceutical products, a senior health ministry official said.

“We already have a committee comprising members from the Ministry of Health, municipalities and the economic departments working towards this,” Dr Abdel Karim Abdallah Al Zarouni told Khaleej Times.

Dr Al Zarouni, Director of the Health Advertisement Department, said the body will have a mandate and structure similar to the Food and Drugs Administration (FDA) in the United States.

The FDA in the US is the apex body for ensuring public health by regulating and supervising the safety of foods, drugs, dietary supplements, bio-pharmaceuticals, medical devices, cosmetics and veterinary products.

The UAE will be the second country in the region, after Saudi Arabia, to establish an FDA. “There will be laws to establish the agency and to decide its tasks and powers,” Dr Al Zarouni said

The Saudi Food and Drugs Authority is an independent agency to ensure safety in food and drugs for humans and animals, biological and chemical substances, and electronic products.

Dr Al Zarouni said a central laboratory, specifically to test the safety of medical equipment, will also be set up under his department, which has full independence at the federal level.

Currently, medical devices used in the country have to be registered with the Department of Drug Control and Registration of the ministry.

“So many fake devices are reaching the market,” he said. “We are planning to have an independent laboratory to ensure all medical equipment and devices are safe. The new lab will provide us the infrastructure and help register all such products.”

As part of the efforts to fulfil the vision of having an FDA in the country, the ministry is also planning to upgrade the Cabinet resolution on health advertising in the country into a federal law.

Cabinet Resolution Number 7 of 2007 had established the Health Advertisement Department to regulate advertisements related to healthcare providers, professionals and products.

“Now we have a system in place,” Dr Al Zarouni said. “We want to make some changes in the current regulations and add some more for making a federal law in this regard.”

He said the proposed law will also regulate advertisements related to alternative medicine and cosmetic medicine practices and products.

Earlier this year, the ministry had announced plans to establish a National Pharmaco-vigilance Centre, which will be a source of information for the risks and benefits associated with drugs and pharmaceuticals. It will function in tandem with the FDA.

The food control departments of municipalities, which currently regulate the food and beverages industry, and the Ministry of Economy, which issues trade licences for all such businesses, will also share responsibilities with the federal body.     


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