x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

Food safety is just a sign of the future

Food safety is just one of the ways in which life in the UAE is being regulated to increase standards

Compared to the UAE’s soaring skyscrapers and other highly visible symbols of progress, many of the indications of national development remain distinctly unglamorous.

For most people, the efforts to create a federal standard for food safety might seem a little prosaic.

But one need only think of the food contamination scandals that regularly occur in places like India to understand the importance of food safety in everyday life.

It’s just this kind of initiative that demonstrates the UAE’s progressive modernisation, even if it fails to enthral those who will eventually benefit.

The law is in its final stages of preparation and will harmonise the rules across all seven emirates so that if food inspectors from one emirate discover a brand of food has become contaminated, a recall will go out across the country.

Inspections will also ensure that food handling and storage procedures are followed. Until very recently, it was routine practice for many grocery owners to turn off their refrigerators each night to save a few dirhams of electricity, even though it greatly increased the risk of food going bad and customers becoming sick.

Important? Sure. Glamorous? Hardly.

Food safety is just one of the ways in which life in the UAE is being regulated to increase standards. Think about the crackdown on mobile phone use by drivers, the enforced midday break for labourers in summer, the recall of more than 15,000 unsafe products being sold in Abu Dhabi, fire safety training for tenants, and the proposals for all teachers to have training in first aid and to recognise signs of abuse in their pupils.

Regulation and enforcement are, as ever, only part of the equation and no advancement is possible without the population being on board, which is why education is also an important part of the mix.

It would be fair to say that any change, no matter how beneficial, often prompts a degree of resistance. Just think of the drivers who believe they can safely exceed the speed limit or make calls while behind the wheel. The reality is it takes time for measures like these to be fully endorsed and adopted by those they affect.

Over time, these initiatives will change life for the better for everyone in the UAE. And that will be an achievement to match the skyscrapers.