x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

Dubai sets out food poisoning rules for hospitals

A new manual compiled by the municipality's food control department features guidelines for all hospitals to follow in tracking and recording food poisoning cases.

DUBAI // Surveillance and investigation methods relating to food-borne illnesses will be stepped up through a partnership between the municipality, the US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Dubai Health Authority (DHA).

A new manual compiled by the municipality's food control department features guidelines for all hospitals to follow in tracking and recording food poisoning cases.

The guide is with CDC for final revisions and should be released soon, said Khalid Mohammed Sharif, the department's director. "Once that task is complete we will move towards implementation," he said.

The municipality is also pushing for a unified database that will detail minute aspects of each case, including the type of bacteria and the point of, and reason for, any contamination. There is no accurate information available because a dedicated system is not yet in place, Mr Sharif said.

"It's very crucial to determine the cause of the illness, whether it is, in fact, food poisoning or not, through an investigation report," he said. "This is why a link between the municipality and DHA is so important."

Carrying out disease investigations and surveillance allows the food control department to identify where things had gone wrong in order to correct them, said Bobby Krishna, the municipality's senior food studies and surveys officer.

He added: "If we find a particular process leads to unsafe food then we need to change that process, or see where the product came from and maybe recall it. The use of these programmes is not just about getting the data, but also about how you can use it.

"These are fundamental principles of food safety; look at the disease, trace the organism and then look at where the organism came from and make sure controls are established."

A committee to discuss preventive measures will likely be made up of the food control department, Dubai's Central Laboratory and the DHA, with the CDC offering technical support. Once the manual's guidelines are fully implemented in hospitals, an investigative committee will also be considered.

The initial committee will discuss various plans, including public awareness campaigns and changing the food inspection process, which Mr Sharif stressed would be stricter and more concentrated.

melshoush@thenational.ae