x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

Doctors call for food hygiene campaign

Government authorities and the general public need to do more to make sure food is prepared safely, doctors say.

Health officials have called for a campaign to educate people about safe cooking at home.
Health officials have called for a campaign to educate people about safe cooking at home.

DUBAI // Government authorities and the general public need to do more to make sure food is prepared safely, according to doctors. "I definitely see more food poisoning cases here in the UAE than I have working in other countries," said Dr Sabina al Aidarous, a general practitioner at the Imperial Healthcare Institute in Dubai Healthcare City. "Even if you are not at the level of identifying a particular bacteria, there are so many cases of just diarrhoea and vomiting that you can't even begin to describe it."

Children have more sensitive immune systems and so are more vulnerable, as are older people and those with kidney disease, she said. Dr Jon Craig, a GP in the primary care department at the American Hospital in Dubai, said he saw more food poisoning cases here than in the UK, and blamed poor hygiene in restaurants and homes. "You have to follow simple hygiene rules, like keeping uncooked meat away from the vegetables and cooked meat, and being aware of what you should and shouldn't reheat," he said.

Dr al Aidarous called for a public information campaign to educate people about safe cooking at home. "It is not that people don't want to know; if you give them the information they will take steps to protect themselves," she said. "Some people don't have any awareness of food hygiene at home at all; I know of people who freeze and defrost and then refreeze food, which is the biggest no-no of all, or don't know how important it is to wash your hands. You should have different chopping boards for meat, bread and vegetables."

She also warned people not to stuff their fridges or freezers, and to think about how they carried food home from the supermarket. "Part of the cooling effect in a fridge comes from having air circulating, so if that is not happening it is not working as effectively as it could. I know someone who keeps an ice box in his car to keep milk, eggs and dairy products cold on the way home; not everyone can do that but it is maybe something to think about."

She advised people eating out to take a quick look at a restaurant to see if it appeared clean, and if possible to eat food that had been freshly prepared. Dr al Aidarous advised heating up takeaway meals that arrived lukewarm. "You are going to eat it anyway, so it's better to eat it hot and hopefully kill the bacteria." gmcclenaghan@thenational.ae