x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 21 July 2017

Food-safety law to unify standards across the UAE

Unified legislation for food safety across the Emirates is nearing as the federal food-safety law reaches its final stages, officials say.

Delegates at a workshop organised by the Food and Agriculture Organisation, where shortfalls in different emirates’  food-safety systems were addressed to prepare for the introduction of a federal law. Fatima Al Marzooqi / The National
Delegates at a workshop organised by the Food and Agriculture Organisation, where shortfalls in different emirates’ food-safety systems were addressed to prepare for the introduction of a federal law. Fatima Al Marzooqi / The National

ABU DHABI // The first federal food-safety law is expected to be completely adopted by next year, authorities said on Tuesday.

The law, which includes 50 sections, is in its final stage and it will unify the emirates’ food safety regulations.

“We just need accreditation and I hope the law will be adopted by next year,” said Fawaz Abdullah, chief of food control at Ras Al Khaimah Municipality.

Mr Abdullah was speaking on the sidelines of a workshop organised by the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO).

A spokesman for the Abu Dhabi Food Control Authority said an animal feed section had just been added to the draft law and was “being revised by the Ministry of Environment and Water and other stakeholders”.

“It’ll then be brought to the Ministry of Justice to be approved and, if it all goes well, it could be adopted next year,” the spokesman said.

“This will help in achieving more efficient food safety across the country because we’ll have legislation and codes of practice.”

Mr Abdullah said a federal recall system for food had begun, along with a database linking different food laboratories.

“That will help all the labs in the UAE,” he said. “If there is any recall in one emirate, they will notify other emirates at the same time.”

The workshop addressed shortfalls in each emirate’s food safety system. FAO experts gave recommendations to heads of food control departments and the Ministry of Environment and Water.

“The main challenge is that there are seven emirates. Some are advanced like Abu Dhabi and Dubai, and others are progressing,” said Abdu Gasem Al Assiri, the FAO’s coordinator and representative in the UAE.

“Those lack human resources, equipment and legislation, and they need improvement in that. We want to improve the lack of capacity building in some emirates and have synergy between all of them.”

Technical and legal frameworks of the food safety system were assessed from April until this month.

“We recommend to strengthen coordination and cooperation at the emirate level and between all emirates,” said Dr Cristiano Longo, a food safety consultant at the FAO.

“It’s very important to identify a federal coordination function in charge for law harmonisation, policy and international relationships.”

Smaller emirates were found to be at a disadvantage.

“Population statistics are hugely different by emirate so the fiscal resource availability is hugely different, which means that facilities are hugely different and the number of staff are also different,” said Andrew Gauldie, a food safety and consumer protection officer at the organisation.

“So the smaller emirates are challenged by capacity and the larger emirates have a far greater capacity to do the job.”

Mr Gauldie said each emirate had its own procedures.

“Some aspects could be improved, like procedures for dealing with samples submitted to labs and border inspection posts as well as the movement of food,” he said.

“It’s unlikely that all seven emirates can operate at the same level but they could all operate above the acceptable level.”

In the meantime, the objective is for the emirates to move towards a harmonised legal system to address issues at a federal level.

“Coordination is always going to be necessary and having different legislations is a challenge,” said Carmen Bullon, an international food law officer at the FAO.

“A federal food law can help if it is implemented properly.”

cmalek@thenational.ae