x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 23 January 2018

Food safety message hits home

Normally, food inspectors spend their time haranguing restaurants about the need for good hygiene.

Housewives are being targeted by Dubai officials in the Safe Kitchen Initiative.
Housewives are being targeted by Dubai officials in the Safe Kitchen Initiative.

DUBAI // Normally, food inspectors spend their time haranguing restaurants about the need for good hygiene. Now, they are taking aim at a new group: housewives who prepare meals for their families every day.

The Dubai Municipality launched what it is calling its Safe Kitchen Initiative to promote the correct preparation of meals. To kick off the initiative, food inspectors will make a one-hour presentation at Lulu Hypermarket in Al Qusais starting at 8pm on Monday. They will highlight kitchen dos and don'ts and will try to dispel some myths about food poisoning. "The programme will be for an hour and people who are attending can ask questions regarding food safety and food poisoning," the department said.

Anybody can attend, but officials are especially hoping housewives are in the audience since many cases of food poisoning are blamed on incorrect handling of food in homes. The municipality has recorded 60 cases of food poisoning so far this year, two-thirds of which involved people eating at home. If the demonstration is well-attened more will be organised in other malls and shops. Also as part of the initiative, the municipality is distributing pamphlets about food safety in supermarkets and other places that sell food.

The issue of food hygiene came to the fore this summer following the deaths of four children - Nathan and Chelsea D'Souza, aged five and eight, in Dubai; Marwa Faisal, four, from Sharjah; and two-year-old Rishad Pranav in Dubai - due to suspected food poisoning. One Dubai housewife, Latika Chandar, said she believed the programme would be a good opportunity for parents to gain a better understanding of food safety.

"We have been quite worried after some cases of food poisoning in the city. I have two young children and we were confused about what is the right or wrong procedure. Such training is a good way to learn from real experts." Counters have also been set up in supermarkets as part of the programme to advise customers of safe ways in which to handle food. Earlier this month, the department held discussions with leading food outlets, hotels, restaurants and supermarkets to discuss hygiene.

The municipality also recently announced that 65 food outlets had been temporarily closed this year because of safety violations. They were allowed to reopen only after corrections were made. The Abu Dhabi Food Control Authority is also trying to ensure that residents prepare meals safely with a Ramadan food safety campaign. Mohamed al Reyaysa, spokesman for the authority, said it was distributing fliers and airing radio commercials with food safety advice in Arabic and English.

"During Ramadan, we expect people to eat more, so we want to make sure everything they do is safe for when they eat," he said. "We want to make them aware that, of course, they should wash their hands when preparing food, and also, when they are buying, what to have in their minds and what to watch for." The tips include checking products for expiration dates, making sure frozen items are properly stored and raw foods are cooked thoroughly.

Mr al Reyaysa said health inspectors were stepping-up checks on bakeries and shops selling sweets to ensure that all food outlets had proper health certificates. Serious offences can result in the closure of businesses and fines of up to Dh10,000 (US$2,700). pmenon@thenational.ae mkwong@thenational.ae