x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

Food-poisoning register in pipeline

If two or more cases are detected from the same suspected source, hospitals must immediately report it electronically to the Dubai Health Authority (DHA).

DUBAI // Food-safety officials are planning a central register of all food-poisoning cases in the emirate.

Due to be in place by the end of the year, it will link the municipality with 80 hospitals to keep track of all incidents. So far, 35 centres including the NMC Hospital and Dubai Hospital have registered.

"It's a very tough programme because once we identify the organism, we need to know which strain of the disease we are dealing with, and it's a challenge because the behaviour of organisms evolve and change," said Khalid Al Awadi, the municipality's director of food control.

If two or more cases are detected from the same suspected source, the hospital must immediately report it electronically to the Dubai Health Authority (DHA). The DHA will then tell the municipality, which will investigate further.

"We're studying where the disease comes from, we find out where these people have been and where they travelled," said Mr Al Awadi. "We're getting to the outlets by investigating further."

So far, data from the 35 Dubai hospitals suggests a rate of food poisoning of about 36 cases for each 100,000 people, although that is sure to increase as more centres are added.

"We estimate that with all medical centres and hospitals combined, it would amount to 130 cases per 100,000 people," said Bashir Yousif, a food-safety expert at the municipality. "So we want to reduce that to 70 cases per 100,000 by 2014."

Of the current cases, most were caused by mishandling food, poor temperature control, sick employees, cross-contamination and failure to keep hands clean after handling raw food.

Mr Yousif is hoping the system could be in place nationwide within two years and eventually be used across the GCC.

Residents wanting to report cases of food poisoning can call the municipality on 04 223 2323.

cmalek@thenational.ae