Only 550 food outlets had received excellent rating in 2015
Dubai - A total of 198 food outlets were closed temporarily during the past year due to high-risk violations
A record number of 1,889 high-risk food establishments in Dubai have received excellent rating in the municipality's annual evaluation in 2016.
Sultan Ali Al Tahir, Head of Food Inspection Section at Dubai Municipality said that this a huge difference compared to the previous years, as only 550 food outlets had received excellent rating in 2015.
"Out of a total of 20,000 food establishments in Dubai 1,446 received A Grade and 443 qualified for the prestigious A+ rating during 2016. Both these grades are counted as excellent. The rest of the establishments received B, C, D and E ratings according to their performances," he said.
Al Tahir noted that the high risk establishments represented hotels and big restaurants with large quantities of food preparation.
A total of 198 food outlets were closed temporarily during the past year due to high-risk violations. "They were temporarily closed to let them modify their status and improve the technical and hygiene levels. A large number of them were allowed to re-start the work, after meeting the technical specifications and the necessary hygiene requirements," he said.
Al Tahir said that an increased number of temporary closure orders were monitored during the summer months, due to high temperatures, which negatively affect the safety of food, and a sharp decrease was noticed in the number of closures with the beginning of the winter months.
"The increased number of excellent rating was the result of the implementation of strategic food safety programs for the food establishments in the emirate and their adherence to our procedures to raise the hygiene and technical standards to reach this advanced level, most notably the application of HACCP risk analysis system in all hotels, catering companies, and increasing their effectiveness," he said.
"This system targets the risks related to the food chain from raw materials to the consumer table," said Al Tahir.
"As for the low-level establishments, we applied the Intelligent Inspection Program, which was designed to identify, figure out and analyse the technical and hygiene risks, as well as to process them by developing radical solutions, in addition to applying the best practices in food safety. This has contributed significantly in raising the level of evaluation of the food establishments. The Hygiene Supervisor Program has resulted in reducing the total number of food outlets with low rating to 4 per cent only," he said.
He pointed out that the specialized inspection teams have exerted outstanding efforts, which reflected in the commitment of the food establishments to food safety rules and regulations, and the implementation of the advanced food safety programs, which raised the hygiene and technical levels of these establishments and the commitment of employees to the standard global best practices in food.
Al Tahir said that during the past year the inspection teams conducted 32,291 specialized visits and 32,485 routine visits, which were carried out based on a pre-planned schedule through the Intelligent Inspection Program. This program schedules electronic visits, depending on the technical and hygiene level of the establishments and the level of risk of the type of activity, he added.
"A total of 1,068 follow-up visits were also carried out by the Section. These kinds of visits were carried out to verify that the requirements for routine visits are met. The increase in follow-up visits was monitored as a result of focusing on the follow-up of low-ranking establishments in order to raise their technical and hygienic standards and also to follow up the effectiveness of the implementation of the Hygiene Supervisor Program," said Al Tahir.
"In addition, the inspectors also carried out 1,807 random visits. These visits were conducted without preparing any schedule in advance, while they were present in the inspection areas, and when they notice any irregularities in the food establishments that may affect public health," he said.
"The team of inspectors in the Food Inspection Section makes a list of food establishments in different areas of the emirate to ascertain the accuracy of the number of establishments in each area according to the geographical distribution of food establishments as well as the work plan of the Section," said Al Tahir.
"In addition, 2,660 Administrative Order visits were carried out last year. These visits were carried out in accordance with the instructions issued by the Head of Food Inspection Section or the Food Safety Department to verify the technical and hygiene status of some food establishments and to ensure that there are no products contrary to the terms of trade and also to hand over circulars on the application of certain hygiene requirements, and circulars for the withdrawal of violating products imported to the food establishments," he said.
Al Tahir explained that the total number of public reports received last year about violations by food outlets amounted to 2,727, and out of that 98.9 per cent of them were attended to on time and 1.1 per cent were implemented after the time exceeded due to the formation of a specialized team in the Section. "The employees in the section respond to public complaints received through the Municipality's Call Center Toll-free number 800900, which is open 24 hours a day, to receive complaints and suggestions. Our overall response rate for public communications was 100 per cent," he pointed out.
Al Tahir added that 98 per cent of the Hygiene Supervisor Program has been implemented, which contributed greatly to the high hygiene situation in the various food establishments. "The goal of the Municipality is the participation of private establishments in improving their level and training their employees. We are working on a clear plan to raise their level, so that it is similar to the levels achieved by the emirate, as we have hotels and establishments with a rating of 7 stars, and food establishments should be equivalent to this class," he said.
Al Tahir praised the efforts made by the various inspection teams in the Section, which produced positive results. He promised to exert more efforts to achieve the vision of the Food Safety Department's vision of "Sustainable Control for Safe Food," using the best global food control systems.
Al Tahir said food safety is the priority of the Food Inspection Section, stressing the positive side of the various inspection operations and the inspectors' focus on high-risk violations.
He said that inspections during the past year focused on risk analysis and the separation of administrative and technical violations in determining the assessment of the establishment. "If any serious violation is committed, it receives a red card. This card affects its final evaluation. It has to modify its status within a certain period, to get a high rating," said Al Tahir.