Dubai aims drastic cut in food rejection rate

Dubai aims drastic cut in food rejection rate

Dubai is aiming at close to zero rejection of imported food by mandating food safety managers for trading companies who can liaise with exporters in other countries



Pick a PIC or face the music, eateries told

Sajila Saseendran

DUBAI — Dubai eateries will face strict actions including fines if they do not appoint trained and certified food safety managers mandated by the Person-In-Charge programme of the Dubai Municipality.

The Food Control Department of the municipality mandated the presence of an approved PIC in each food outlet from January. The municipality was focusing on the high-risk establishments like restaurants, catering companies and cafeterias in the initial phase of the programme. So far, nearly 6,000 PICs have been trained and certified for these categories.

On Thursday, Director of the department Khalid Mohammed Sharif Al Awadhi told Khaleej Times that the next phase of the programme will focus on over 2,000 food trading companies in the emirate.

“If we find that there is no PIC present in an outlet when our inspector visits them, that outlet will be fined. Also, the outlet will not be inspected,” he said.

The role of PICs is to conduct self-inspections and ensure compliance with Dubai’s stringent food safety regulations and requirements.

The municipality’s Senior Food Studies and Surveys Officer, Bobby Krishna, said the municipality deems food outlets without PICs as unfit for inspections. “When there is no food safety manager present, we don’t find any point in inspecting them,” he said.

“It is the responsibility of the management to ensure that the PIC is present before the next inspection. If not, the fines will multiply. We are slapping fines on them not for making money, but to make sure that they are not endangering lives by not ensuring proper food safety,” he said.

Al Awadhi said fines would vary from Dh200 to Dh2,000. Krishna said fines will be imposed only if no PIC has been assigned or when there is no justifiable reason for the absence of a PIC in an establishment at the time of inspection.

The officials spoke on the sidelines of a post-event workshop of the 7th Dubai International Food Safety Conference that concluded on Wednesday.

sajila@khaleejtimes.com

Dubai is aiming at close to zero rejection of imported food by mandating food safety managers for trading companies who can liaise with exporters in other countries to avoid non-compliance of local regulations.

The Dubai Municipality’s Food Control Department has made the appointment of trained and certified food safety manager titled Person-in-Charge (PIC) for trading companies from next month, Director of the department Khalid Mohammed Sharif Al Awadhi said on Thursday.

The PICs are responsible for conducting self-inspections and ensuring compliance of food safety regulations at their respective food establishments. Speaking to Khaleej Times on the sidelines of a post-event workshop of the 7th Dubai International Food Safety Conference that concluded on Wednesday, Al Awadhi said PICs with trading companies will have an additional responsibility of informing the exporters they are dealing with about these regulations. There are over 160 countries from where 90 per cent of food products are imported to Dubai. However, thousands of tonnes of food products are rejected every year at Dubai ports, largely due to the exporters’ lack of knowledge about the emirate’s stringent food safety regulations.

“We have over 2,000 trading companies in Dubai. We are implementing the next phase of the PIC programme for them from March,” said Al Awadhi. In the first phase which began in January, the DM focused on high-risk establishments like restaurants, catering companies and cafeterias for appointing PICs.

“Trading companies’ PICs should explain our standards and requirements to exporting companies to minimise rejection of food at border points, and thereby avoid food wastage. Our aim is to achieve close to zero rejection in future,” he said.

The municipality’s Food Safety Expert, Bashir Hassan Yousif, said the move was part of Dubai’s “source control” plans. “We don’t have direct access to exporters. So our trading companies have to clearly communicate our food safety objectives to them so that they know what all criteria they must comply with.”

In 2011, Dubai rejected nearly 45,000 tonnes of food products, most of which were denied permission due to non-compliance with the DM’s food labelling requirements. According to Al Awadhi, only about three per cent of that was found unfit after laboratory tests.

“We have considerably reduced the quantity of food rejected by using an effective electronic system for food imports and exports. But, we want to reduce it further through the PICs in trading companies,” he said.

Earlier during the conference, the municipality had also announced several other plans to help improve food safety of the regional food supply for reductions in illnesses and increased trade in food. The most important of those was the move to join an international laboratory network, PulseNet International, for early detection of food poisoning causes that will help control the import of contaminated food traced to be the source of outbreaks.

sajila@khaleejtimes.com


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