x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

Dubai sets menu for exporters of food

Imports into Dubai are often poorly labelled, especially from countries that do not follow the same basic regulations as the UAE.

DUBAI // The municipality is working with 10 of its major food exporters to make sure the food they send next year is safe and properly labelled.

About 90 per cent of the UAE's food is imported, posing a significant challenge to authorities wanting to impose a uniform set of labelling and safety rules.

Imports are often poorly labelled, especially from countries with rules that do not include Arabic labelling or require details such as country of origin or expiry dates.

Now the municipality will work with authorities in India, Thailand, Brazil, China, Australia, the US and the UK, which sell the UAE food products.

They include wheat, rice, vegetables, fruits, meat and grains, as well as nuts, poultry, concentrated juices, seafood, frozen items, sweets, chocolates and biscuits.

Exporters from those countries will have to ensure their food labels and expiry dates match the emirate's requirements.

"Those are the main issues faced by the municipality in terms of imports," said Asia Al Raeesi, the municipality's head of studies and food planning.

"And as these countries represent 70 per cent of food imports in Dubai, it will help solve more than two thirds of our problems."

Bobby Krishna, the municipality's senior food studies and surveys officer, says mislabelled imports are very common.

"Many people don't know that we have a label approval [system] and some countries don't even mention an expiry date," Mr Krishna said.

The problems extend beyond labelling, in some cases back to the field, he said.

"If you export your vegetables to Dubai, you can't do anything about their safety because it's already happened in their field.

"So if chemicals or pesticides are used we just rely on our testing, which is not an accurate measure.

"You need to have controlled measures on the country where you import it from, so we're trying to build relations with every country to find out what exporters are meant to do."

Discussions have already started with Brazil, India and Thailand.

"We highlight the main problems and talk to their federal authorities," said Ms Al Raeesi.

"There must be a diplomatic approach to solve these problems."

cmalek@thenational.ae