x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 21 January 2018

Keep fridges on, stores told

Turning them off to save money can cause food poisoning.

SHARJAH // Food retailers who turn off their refrigerators at night to save power are a major cause of food poisoning in summer, and Sharjah food safety officials have launched an inspection campaign to stop it. Inspectors have recently caught and fined 94 violators including supermarket and grocery store operators. "Some food and dairy products can just not be left without refrigeration for a long time," said Jassim Ali, the director of the internal food inspection department at the Sharjah Municipality.

The inspections follow the formation of a committee tasked with reducing the number of food poisoning cases in the emirate. Mr Ali said the foremost objective of the committee was to keep records so that authorities could look for common causes or trends. Hospitals and clinics are to notify the committee of cases of food poisoning. "If you ask any official from anywhere in this country about food poisoning records, the answer would be the same: 'We don't have them'. How can you fight food poisoning when you don't have records? Old cases continue appearing without notice," he said.

The committee includes officials from the municipality, Ministry of Health and Sharjah Police. Food poisoning is the result of eating organisms or toxins in contaminated food. Most cases of food poisoning are from common bacteria. It can affect one person or it can occur as an outbreak in a group of people who all ate the same contaminated food. Mr Ali said the committee would also work out a programme to create greater awareness of food poisoning since people often mistook other health problems, such as forms of gastroenteritis, the symptoms of which are nausea, vomiting and diarrhoea, for food poisoning.

"If a non-familiar food is detected in your body, your digestion system is going into overdrive and get rid of it, if there is any of it left in the stomach ... At times the stomach rejects some food, you feel like you are going to die after eating it, but you will probably make it through," he said. ykakande@thenational.ae