x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

Fines for firms flouting food rules

Eateries must send a staff member for municipality training or face fines.

Dr Ali Danesh Manesh lectures students about the importance of food safety.
Dr Ali Danesh Manesh lectures students about the importance of food safety.

DUBAI // Restaurants, cafeterias, supermarkets and caterers who have failed to appoint a "person in charge" of food safety and hygiene are being fined up to Dh2,000.

Thousands of food outlets were told last year that they had to send a manager or supervising staff member for municipal training by the start of this month.

"We have started issuing fines between Dh500 and Dh2,000," said Asia Al Raeesi, the head of food planning and studies at the municipality.

Penalties were an effective way of ensuring staff were trained and certified, she said.

More than 7,000 staff from more than 4,500 outlets have already been trained but the municipality estimates there are more than 10,000 food businesses in the emirate.

"People are catching up but they wait for the fines. Only after they get the fine, do they start," said Ms Al Raeesi.

The municipality did not reveal how many offenders had been fined.

Municipality inspectors will also give outlets a 25-point checklist for avoiding food poisoning that they are expected to begin using this week.

"It is a single-page checklist designed for every day of the week. Over the next six months, inspectors will tell them what to prioritise," said Bobby Krishna, the senior food studies and surveys officer at the municipality's food control department.

Food temperature monitoring, personal hygiene, water safety and reporting if staff or customers are ill feature prominently on the municipality's checklist.

"There is a focus on certain things that should not be compromised on. If they want to add to the checklist, they can," Mr Krishna said.

He added that outlets would also have to constantly monitor food displayed on buffets or inside the refrigerator, as well as incoming goods from suppliers and staff's personal hygiene.

Restaurants have welcomed the new rules.

"It is good to have a checklist," said Ashraf Sayed Abuhindia, a store manager at the fast food chain Fat Burger.

"We are more careful since the training. Everybody in the restaurant understands the importance of temperature. We know the critical points to minimise food contamination," said Mr Abuhindia, who took the two-day PiC (person in charge) training course earlier this month.

"We can monitor what we have to do with a checklist," said Evangeline Laderde, a team leader at Cinnabon. "I learnt a lot of things from the training, especially on grooming and hygiene."

The Chartered Institute of Environmental Health, which has trained and certified more than 350 staff from fast-food outlets, fine dining restaurants and hotels, said the programme had helped to raise awareness.

"Food handlers are from multicultural backgrounds and they may not have prior experience before coming to Dubai," said Abdul Rashid, the director and general manager of the institute. "It is important to make them aware of safety requirements. The training adds to their knowledge base and provides a practical approach to day-to-day situations."

Authorities have warned that establishments may have to retrain staff if they did not meet standards.

"We will be checking how effective the PiC is. If they are poor at their job or if the right person has not been trained, they will have to go for retraining," said Mr Krishna.

pkannan@thenational.ae