x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

All food staff must pass hygiene test

Abu Dhabi will deny restaurant licences unless every employee passes exam dealing with safe practices beginning in 2012.

ABU DHABI // All restaurant and kitchen staff will have to be trained and certified in food safety by the end of 2012, the emirate's food regulator said yesterday. The training will be a condition for restaurant licences, which will not be issued or renewed unless all staff have taken at least six hours of hygiene training and passed a multiple-choice exam, according to the Abu Dhabi Food Control Authority (ADFCA). Restaurant licences must be renewed every year.

Those who do not pass on their first attempt will be allowed to re-sit. Staff who fail a second time will be sent on a more rigorous food safety course. Once they pass, workers will be issued with a certificate valid for three years. "The success rate in the exams is determined by many factors," said Mohammed al Reyaysa, the authority's spokesman. "It is the first formal training of its kind that most food handlers ever undergo in their professional life."

Previously, 60 per cent of staff at a food establishment had to have taken the training, but they were not required to pass the final exam. "One of the weak points about food in the UAE is the staff," Sven Mostegl, a food consultant based in the capital, said. "The kitchen staff is the biggest problem, and a little after is the service staff. To have training and to pass an exam is the best idea. Two years is easily enough time for every employee to get certified."

Since 2008, 27,000 food handlers have been trained. Of those, 37 per cent have passed the test, representing a quarter of the total food industry workforce. In 2009, 17,000 were trained, but three in five failed. The ADFCA said the low pass rate was due to language barriers. It has developed a pictorial test to help workers who cannot read. "In an industry that has a very low level of literacy, a quick transformation is hard to come by," Mr Reyaysa said. "The challenge is made all the more difficult by the mix of cultures and languages: Indian, Asian, Arab and other nationalities among the food handlers."

The training - it involves teaching best practices in chilling food, cooking, cleaning and avoiding cross-contamination through good personal hygiene - and exams were originally given in Arabic, English, Hindi and Urdu. Malayalam and Bengali will be added. The training, but not the exams, will also be available in Tamil. Restaurant staff were pleased with the changes made to the test. "The pictures are a good idea," said Mohomad Shacin, an employee at Cosi restaurant in al Wahda Mall, "All the people who don't know English will be able to pass, before you had multiple choice and all the answers were the same. I have friends who work at hotels, and they failed one or two times."