Europe approves camel milk
DUBAI // Samples of UAE camel milk have been approved as safe by European regulators in a key step towards starting exports to the continent.
The final hurdle is for the various food authorities in the Emirates to prove they are working together on disease control.
The approval follows last year's rejection of a bid by the Central Veterinary Research Laboratory (CVRL), which owns the dairy farm and the brand Camelicious, on the grounds that the country's animal-health system was not rigorous enough.
A team of European Commission inspectors visited the UAE in January last year, checking municipal veterinary services in Dubai and Al Ain, the Ministry of Environment and Water's regional office in Al Dhaid and its central laboratory in Al Ain.
They also saw two municipal animal-health laboratories, private laboratories, markets, a dairy farm and a camel farm,and inspection posts at a port and an airport.
In May they announced they had rejected the UAE's bid and issued a report spelling out their concerns.
It contained a list of nine requirements including an animal-health law, new rules for disease control, improving organisation of ministry labs, increasing transparency and abiding by international standards.
Others included better disease notification, reinforcing import controls and animal identification.
The commission set a deadline of September next year. The lab has already settled necessary legal matters.
"Since the EU's report … the ministry improved its animal welfare law issued in 2007," said David Wernery, the legal adviser for the CVRL.
The commission had to check the milk was safe to drink but a bigger issue, Mr Wernery said, was "there was very little exchange of information and accountability between municipalities and the ministry".
And although the ministry now says it is collaborating with municipalities across the UAE, the relationship needs to be formalised.
The EU also wants evidence of the ministry's veterinary oversight and inspection regime.
But Mr Wernery is optimistic: "They've been working on it for the past year so I'm hoping it will be done before the end of this year."
The commission has no plans to send inspectors to the UAE this year, but export authorisation could be given on the basis of paperwork and further samples. If approved, Europe would represent a huge market.
"If you think about all the fresh camel milk products with yoghurt and cheese, there is huge demand in the European market," said Dr Ulrich Wernery - David's father - the lab's director who has been working on the project for seven years.