x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 28 July 2017

One in three Dubai restaurant hygiene staff 'not qualified'

All restaurants are required to have a trained 'Person in Charge' of monitoring food storage and preparation, but some outlets do not take this requirement seriously, officials say.

DUBAI // One in every three people responsible for hygiene in Dubai’s restaurants are not qualified, the municipality says.

Authorities say the result is serious problems with temperature control, contamination and food poisoning.

All restaurants are required to have a named, trained “Person in Charge” (PiC) monitoring food storage and preparation.

But Bobby Krishna, the municipality’s senior food studies and surveys officer, said some outlets were just ticking boxes.

“They pick up someone from the counter and tell them to go for the Person in Charge programme just to meet the requirement,” Mr Krishna said on the sidelines of the Dubai Food Chain Conference yesterday.

The scheme, introduced in 2009, trained 3,000 managers last year. By the end of last year it was supposed to have trained about 15,000.

Mr Krishna said about a third of the people sent by restaurants had not been qualified to take the course, “mostly in small shops and restaurants where it’s easy to pick someone from the kitchen to go pass the course”.

He added: “But this is simply not going to work, so we tell the manager to do the training again.”

Inspections are becoming more “PiC-focused”, but, in the meantime, the lack of expertise results in workers mishandling food.

“Temperature control of food in high-risk outlets such as hotels, cafeterias, restaurants and catering companies is a serious problem with hot food, especially in bulk-cooking processes,” said Mr Krishna. “A couple of outbreaks have been associated with rice and meat preparation, especially on the weekends.”

There are also problems with transporting food.

“The lack of temperature monitoring on refrigeration [vehicles] is a big problem,” said Uwe Micheel, the director of kitchens at the Radisson Blu Hotels and Resorts.

“You find open trucks at the fruit and vegetable market unloading food in hot weather.”

The municipality recognises transport as one of the “weakest points” in its food chain.

“We haven’t been successful in fixing that problem so far,” said Bashir Hassan Yousif, a food-safety expert at the municipality.

“We tried enforcing regulations with the police but we still have to work on it. It’s one of the biggest weaknesses in our system.”

Buffets are also a worry. “Hot food that should be above 65°C is kept at 40°C, and some toxins will not be destroyed when the food is reheated,” said Mr Yousif.

A 35-point “smart inspection” checklist is being translated into 10 languages including Mandarin, Arabic and Malayalam.

“The biggest challenge is the language and getting through to them,” said Asia Al Raeesi, the municipality’s head of studies and food planning.

“There are thousands of food handlers, importers, retailers, growers and consumers, so each link of the chain has a crucial role to play.”

cmalek@thenational.ae