x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 27 July 2017

Most food workers fail hygiene courses

More than 60 per cent of food workers in Abu Dhabi who took hygiene training courses last year failed them, many because of language barriers.

Many restaurant workers fail the hygiene training exams.
Many restaurant workers fail the hygiene training exams.

ABU DHABI // More than 60 per cent of food workers in the capital who took hygiene training courses last year failed them, many because of language barriers. Just 11 per cent of employees in the food industry in Abu Dhabi are hygiene-certified, according to figures provided by the Abu Dhabi Food Control Authority (ADFCA), a potential setback to food-safety plans in the emirate.

Many workers failed the multiple-choice test because of problems encountered during training. Asian workers also had to contend with poor translations of information, according to the authority. "They all use English as a barrier-breaker but the people that are involved in food service may not have a comprehensive knowledge of English," said Stephen Pakenham-Walsh, a food-service consultant based in Abu Dhabi.

Mr Pakenham-Walsh said relying on English was "short-sighted" on the part of food tutors. Indians make up 65 per cent of the food industry workforce. Other Asian nationalities comprise 20 per cent of workers, with Arabs making up 12 per cent. The results indicate that the large majority of workers are not getting effective hygiene training. The Essential Food Safety Training programme was launched in August 2008 and requires employees in the food industry, such as restaurant and cafe staff, to undertake at least six hours of hygiene training.

The material for the programme and examinations was originally given in Arabic, English and Urdu. The training involves teaching best practices in chilling food, cooking, cleaning and avoiding cross-contamination through good personal hygiene. The Government's plan mandates that all food workers in the capital go through hygiene training by the end of 2012. Mr Pakenham-Walsh said the 2012 target was still achievable if the ADFCA moved quickly to fix the training system.

Among solutions the authority will investigate are allowing other private companies to enter bids to train workers; review the training material; and hire a consultant to design a picture-based exam. Workers who fail the training will not be immediately barred from working in Abu Dhabi, but an official at the ADFCA said that passing the exam will eventually be required. He gave no timetable. kshaheen@thenational.ae hdajani@thenational.ae