x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 27 July 2017

Sharjah steps up canteen safety

School training vital as many sites are 'a disaster': expert

SHARJAH // A year after its launch, a food-safety training programme in Sharjah is expanding to include all school canteen staff.

The municipal programme provides food workers with hygiene training. So far, 410 food outlets and more than 1,000 workers have been through it. The first batch of school canteen supervisors started training two weeks ago.

Sven Mostegl, a food consultant who has visited school canteens in Sharjah, said the move into schools was much needed. "Most of the hygiene in Sharjah's school canteens is a disaster, apart from the Australian school. So training workers in schools there is a very good idea," he said.

Sharjah has had problems with food poisoning in the past. In June 2009, a four-year-old girl died of food poisoning after eating breakfast ordered from a restaurant near her home.

Although the municipality said there were no food poisoning cases registered in 2010 or last year, seven people were admitted to hospital last month after eating samosas from a bakery in the emirate.

Mr Mostegl said the training had to be made simple for workers to understand. The municipality agrees, and has added pictorial tests for illiterate staff.

"The biggest challenge of the programme was the training of illiterate food handlers and their multinational culture," said Dr Sheikha Rasha Al Qasimi, the municipality's assistant director general of health, environment and quality affairs.

Mr Mostegl said there was still a lack of clear, printed directions. "There are no papers or documents showing what penalty [canteen staff] get and for which mistake," he said.

"Each inspector shows the workers by himself - what is good and bad - but it has to be practical and safe for it to work properly."

cmalek@thenational.ae