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Are frozen strawberries safe for consumption in UAE?

Wam/Dubai
Filed on September 19, 2016 | Last updated on September 19, 2016 at 07.06 am
Picture used for illustrative purposes alone
Picture used for illustrative purposes alone

(Alamy Image)

MOCCAE is coordinating with the Ministry of Health and health authorities in the UAE to monitor any case of hepatitis caused by eating contaminated food.

An official report posted on the Food and Drug Administration's (FDA) website does not conform to what has been circulated on social media platforms regarding Egyptian frozen strawberry products and their relationship to the Hepatitis A outbreak reported recently across eight US states, the UAE Ministry of Climate Change and Environment (MOCCAE) stated on Saturday.

In a press release, the ministry urged the public to refrain from posting or circulating any news on social media platforms without contacting the concerned authorities to verify and validate the credibility of that information before posting.

The ministry said it has coordinated with relevant food control authorities - Abu Dhabi Food Control Authority, Dubai Municipality, Sharjah Municipality, Municipality and Planning Department in Ajman, Umm Al Quwain Municipality, Ras Al Khaimah Municipality and Fujairah Municipality - to clarify the information for consumers.

"After thorough investigations and reviewing the U.S. Food and Drug Administration's website, the MOCCAE and specialised official teams from concerned authorities have detected discrepancies between what has been circulated on social media and what is stated on the FDA's website," it said.

The official report issued by the FDA stated that 119 people diagnosed with Hepatitis A have been reported in eight US states. An epidemiological monitoring team from several US government agencies was formed to investigate and determine the causes of the outbreak, it added.

"The preliminary results indicated that most of the cases that have been recorded had consumed smoothies containing frozen strawberries imported from Egypt at well-known cafes across the USA. The US authorities are still coordinating with Egyptian authorities to validate the results. The report stated that there was no further information indicating the existence of external cases of Hepatitis A. Nor was there any information about the existence of other American food outlets using strawberries contaminated with the Hepatitis A virus," the statement added.

The report also provided guidance for restaurants and institutions using strawberries and other products to ensure the implementation of proper hygiene procedures at all levels in preparing products - including washing hands and disinfecting surfaces, among others. Furthermore, the report provided consumers with information about Hepatitis A and what they should do if they show symptoms of illness due to consumption of frozen strawberries.

In coordination with local authorities, the UAE Ministry of Climate Change and Environment (MOCCAE) emphasised the following: MOCCAE has issued a circular to specialised local authorities to tighten control procedures on frozen strawberries imported from Egypt in order to avoid the entry of any contaminated products that pose a risk to consumers in the country.

Through coordination with specialised authorities in the UAE, MOCCAE reaffirms that all imported and traded products undergo a strict control system in accordance with the best international practices at all stages of the food chain - including conducting of laboratory tests as per the risk assessment system, and an early notification system of foods that pose a risk to consumers' health.

MOCCAE did not receive any regional or international notifications with regards to the Egyptian products mentioned in reports circulated on social media platforms.

MOCCAE reaffirms that there is constant coordination with competent authorities in the UAE to ensure the safety of all imported and traded food products.

Despite the fact that FDA's report did not state that Egyptian products contain the contaminants mentioned in the news circulated on social media (such as formalin, salts unfit for human consumption, and additives prohibited for use internationally and other contaminants listed in the circulated news), the ministry confirms that specialised authorities have begun conducting urgent tests, surveys and studies on a variety of vegetables and fruit products from different countries, looking for chemical contaminants and heavy metals - as well as specific types of microbes that potentially may be present in contaminated water, to make sure that there are no indications from the use of contaminated water.

MOCCAE is coordinating with the Ministry of Health and health authorities in the UAE to monitor any case of hepatitis caused by eating contaminated food.

MOCCAE is communicating with international organisations and international authorities, including the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and specialised authorities in Egypt, to ensure the safety of food products entering UAE.


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