DUBAI // Top hotels must do more to ensure that their salad bars are free from E.coli and other dangerous bacteria, a government food expert said yesterday.
After a series of foodborne illness outbreaks in the US, Europe and UK over salad greens, the Abu Dhabi Food Control Authority (ADFCA) began a study to assess the safety of the salads at the cold buffets of high-end hotels in the UAE.
"The US and Europe are faced with the same problem, so we're trying to assess our status," said Dr Abdellatif Eldaw Yousif Nasir, a food inspection manager at the authority.
The study found mould, bacteria and spoilage organisms in 24 per cent of the 287 salad samples taken in 2006, 2007 and 2009.
E.coli was reported in 2.15 per cent of the salads, about the same levels typically found worldwide. Leafy greens have long been targeted as bearers of foodborne illness.
"It's not unusually high, but we are adopting a zero level for safety," said Dr Anwar Saad, the head of microbiology and genetics at the ADFCA.
Avoiding greens is no safer. Hummus and tahini were the worst offenders, along with tabouli and fatoush. Over 40 per cent of the contaminants came from those four foods, most commonly faecal matter and coliform bacteria.
The root of the problem, Dr Saad said, was in the farms. "It's coming from the soil, what you get in the soil will be in the food." He said poor irrigation and careless workers could contaminate produce.