x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

Capital camp's kitchen has room to improve

Changes are being made after request from food authority.

ABU DHABI // Conditions in the kitchens at an Abu Dhabi labour camp appear better than the one in Jebel Ali, but it is not without problems.

Three catering companies prepare the food at the Labotel camp in Mafraq. With about 20 serving staff at peak times, the camp provides food including Arabic, Turkish, Indian and Nepalese.

"We pack food in plastic bags for people who arrive here late," says Otaiba Al Otaiba, the camp's owner.

Mr Al Otaiba points to a few plastic bags packed with Arabic and Indian food. One contains a large cockroach crawling around the food.

"I am against this plastic packaging and we told the caterer," he says. "But nothing changes. It's not hygienic to have plastic with hot food."

The camp has no kitchen "because of technical problems", he says. "But there is no need because 50 per cent of the food is sent out."

By law, every labour camp must have a central kitchen and meals provided by a licensed caterer.

But some let labourers cook their own meals, as in the Jebel Ali Industrial Area 2 camp, while others buy in food from unlicensed restaurants, meaning little control over kitchen hygiene and no guarantee that food has been transported or stored at safe temperatures.

Last year, more than 236 workers at the Habshan labour camp in Al Gharbia were struck down by food poisoning after eating meals from an unlicensed caterer.

At the Mafraq camp's serving tables, each and every single labourer dips his hand in a large plastic bag of bread - hardly hygienic.

The food consultant Sven Mostegl says there should be a glass "sneeze guard" separating workers from the food to avoid contamination. There is not.

Mr Al Otaiba says one is planned to be installed soon after a request last month by the Abu Dhabi Food Control Authority.

When labourers are done with their food, they hand over their steel trays to a man in the dish-washing room.

"Usually, there are eight people here," Mr Al Otaiba says.

The tables are wooden and heavily scratched. He says they will be exchanged for something sturdier soon.

"We also need a plastic [cover] on top of the tables," Mr Otaiba says.

Many workers use steel containers to carry their lunch, which he considers unsafe, but the practice continues.

cmalek@thenational.ae

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