x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

Call for nationwide food safety database

With imports from 160 countries the emirates must work together at a national level to protect consumers from dangers in food, such as mold and salmonella.

DUBAI // A nationwide food database is needed to track food safety violations and so improve the quality of imported food, a Dubai food official said yesterday.

"Dubai is a global food village," said Khalid Sharif al Awadi, the head of the Food Control Department at Dubai Municipality.

With imports from 160 countries, Mr al Awadi said, the emirates must work together at a national level to protect consumers from dangers in food, such as mold and salmonella.

Mr al Awadi was speaking yesterday at the sixth Annual Dubai International Food Safety Conference.

There is a particular risk with food imported from emerging economies, where food safety systems are "rudimentary or nonexistent", said Dr Paul Hall, the president of AIV Microbiology & Food Safety Consultants.

India, China and the US are the top three countries that export food to the UAE. Last year, the municipality rejected 10 per cent of food shipped from India, 9.4 per cent of food from the US, and around 5 per cent of Chinese food, based on safety concerns.

Dr Hall warned that imports from developing countries are "skyrocketing" and "the implication is that food from those countries are riskier".

To better protect consumers, the Dubai Municipality has focused on improving its testing methods, and is broadening the types of food it samples.

In the past year, the amount of food the municipality destroyed has almost doubled, up to 423,000 tonnes. The reason is not that imports are worsening, officials said, but that the municipality has developed better lab and sampling methods.

mdetrie@thenational