x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 27 July 2017

Environment minister called to FNC to report on food safety

Dr Rashid bin Fahad, the Minister of Environment, is requested to appear in person after filing a five-page response on issues of local food safety.

ABU DHABI // The Minister of Environment has been summoned to appear before the FNC to explain to members how food safety is being monitored.

Dr Rashid bin Fahad has given the council a five-page report into what the ministry and the Emirates Authority for Standardisation and Metrology are doing to ensure the safety of local and imported food.

But FNC member Ahmed Al Jarwan (Sharjah) said it had not answered his questions.

"The response was on the ministry’s policy," Mr Al Jarwan said.

"He provided us with details of how the ministry works. We wanted specific answers over certain things."

Most of Dr bin Fahad’s responses detailed procedures to monitor imports. He said these were set out by the World Organisation for Animal Health and the World Health Organisation.

Health cases in the country of origin were looked at and if any problems were found, a ban would be placed on food imported from that nation.

For halal food, foreign butchers and Islamic corporations were checked to ensure safety and Sharia compliance.

In the past two years, 21 visits to 17 countries have been made by the minister’s team, Dr bin Fahad said.

Changes will soon be made to the system of providing halal certificates worldwide, the minister said.

Locally produced food is also closely monitored and inspected.

Samples are regularly taken and inspectors make field visits made to food suppliers, factories, restaurants, shops selling wholesale and retail outlets to ensure they do not breach regulations.

Last year the ministry formed a team of examiners to ensure food safety, exchange test results and work towards unifying food testing procedures.

Committees have been formed to unify standards.

"So now it is difficult for any product that does not comply to specifications to reach markets in the country," Mr Al Jarwan said.

"But some of the practices we see in the streets, with the fruit and vegetable vendors in the freej, has the ministry really checked them? What chemicals are used?

"The response from the minister was good and I thank him for that, but through the presence of the minister we can give the right response to the Emiratis about this."

In a recent visit to the council, Dr bin Fahad acknowledged that a large amount of pesticides were being used at local farms.

The next session will be on Tuesday at the FNC headquarters.

osalem@thenational.ae