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Consumers urged to report food safety problems

Municipality says consumers have a role to play in ensuring food safety this Ramadan.

DUBAI // Residents have been asked to call the municipality this Ramadan if they are suspicious about the quality of any food they buy.

Items imported and sold during the holy month will be monitored by the Food Control Department.

The municipality will visit about 200 hypermarkets to check for full compliance on issues such as storage, hygiene, labelling and expiration dates.

Sultan Ali Al Taher, the acting head of the animal product control section at Dubai Municipality, said an ongoing municipal campaign would ensure food safety continues through the start of Ramadan.

"We need consumers to co-operate with us. If at all in doubt they must contact us and we guarantee that our inspectors will investigate complaints," he said.

"Two days before Ramadan until the end of the first week, we'll focus on Ramadan baskets to make sure everything is in order," he said.

"This year, the holy month falls in the middle of summer, which means an increased chance of food spoilage. We don't want consumers to receive unsafe products."

Last year, the section recorded 5 per cent non-compliance. The most common offence was establishments not adhering to ventilation rules.

"Storage in bad conditions, including ventilation, is a serious issue. However, we feel compliance will be better this year. If an establishment has a bad history then fines could double. If the situation is very bad, they could face closure," Mr Al Taher said.

It is crucial that the government looks into food handling with even more vigilance during Ramadan, said Bobby Krishna, the senior food studies and surveys officer at Dubai Municipality.

"Consumers also play a vital role because they should buy from clean and reputable places," he said.

Inspectors will check that food handlers are using hygienic equipment, including frequently changed gloves.

"If ordering hot food it should be kept at 60C and piping hot, not just warm when served.

"Street snacks such as sandwiches and meat stuffings need to be kept in a hot cabinet and not exposed to ambient temperature and cold food should be kept below 5C," Mr Krishna said.

The fruit and vegetable market and warehouses will also be checked for the quality of dates, which are traditionally used for breaking fast during Ramadan. Dairy factories will also be inspected.

"Dairy products are sensitive and become damaged fairly fast. However, customers need to ensure that when purchasing such products they go straight home and store them properly," Mr Al Taher said.

melshoush@thenational.ae

* For more information on food safety, contact the municipality on 800 900

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