I feel much better: Egyptian strawberries in UAE are free of Hepatitis A

According to The National (the UAE paper, not the band) Egyptian strawberries are all good. I’d like to see some sort of data or specifics (like how many samples, how they sampled).

Frozen Egyptian strawberries are free from Hepatitis A, the Ministry of Climate Change and Environment has confirmed. frozen-strawberry

The issue came up last month when the US Food and Drug Administration reported an outbreak of Hepatitis A from Egyptian strawberries in the US. 

The ministry tightened control on frozen strawberries imported from Egypt to prevent any contaminated products that pose a risk to consumers entering the country.

Authorities also collected samples of seven different brands of frozen Egyptian strawberries in UAE markets to conduct laboratory tests.

All clear. Except testing a few batches and not finding hep A has it’s limitations.

Primary Dubai fish market under inspection

There was this one time, a few years ago, I went to Dubai and Abu  Dhabi, to evaluate a graduate program and hang out at Dubai’s food safety conference.

bobby.bittman.sctv.eugeneFriend of the barfblog,  Bobby Khrisna (right, not exactly as shown), took me for a typical seafood dinner in Dubai, and it was great.

Looks like Bobby’s (left, exactly as shown) got some work.

The UAE Ministry of Climate Change and Environment accompanied by representatives from the Dubai Municipality recently conducted an inspection of Dubai’s fish market to assess the site’s compliance with the ministerial legislation that prohibits the sale of particular fish species during specific periods in the year.

H.E. Dr. Thani Al-Zeyoudi UAE Minister of Climate Change and Environment headed the inspection accompanied by H.E. Eng. Hussein Lootah Director General of the Dubai Municipality and H.E. Engineer Saif Mohammed Al-Shara Assistant Undersecretary for External Audit sector along with a team from both sides.

powell.krishna.feb.12H.E. Dr. Al-Zeyoudi emphasized on the importance of protecting and developing the fisheries across the UAE and treat it as a national treasure by committing to the ministerial legislations that have been established to protect and develop the natural stored fishes in the local water. The Ministry has issued multiple laws to prevent sale and harvest of particular species of fish such as the Ministerial Decrees 501 and 174 for the protection of rabbitfish (Safi) the emperor fish (Seiri) and Gerreidae fishes which are considered significant local fishes. The decrease of the stock of these species prompted the Ministry to issue such laws.

UAE: Food safety violators to face stiff fine and jail

The Federal National Council (FNC) on Tuesday approved a draft law on food safety with minor amendments, with suggested jail terms of up to two years and fines ranging from Dh100,000 to Dh2 million for flouting food safety rules.

jail.monopolyThe bill will be sent back to the Cabinet for its approval and then for presidential assent for implementation. The bill was passed by the Cabinet in March last year.

The house called for the establishment of a federal authority for the research and development of techniques and policies pertaining to food safety in the country. The authority, the FNC suggested, could implement food safety regulations and services with the judicial power of imposing penalties on those found flouting food safety policies.

Under the proposed law, food imports into the country will only be done with the approval of the Ministry of Environment and Water.

Those found importing or distributing unhealthy and dangerous foodstuff will face a prison term of up to two years, and a fine ranging between Dh100,000 and Dh300,000, or both.

The proposed law also authorises the Ministry of Economy to impose fines of up to Dh100,000 for other offences regulated by the Cabinet.

The draft law also states a prison term of not less than a month and a fine of Dh500,000 for those found importing foodstuff containing any by-products of pork and alcohol without permission.

Jail and fines as UAE gets serious against food safety (and religious) offenders

A tough new draft law will ramp up penalties for those found to be endangering food safety across the UAE, according to legislation to be debated by the Federal National Council in the next session on February 3.

uae.foodThe bill suggests a jail term of up to three years and a Dh2 million fine for those found endangering food safety.

The legislation, passed by the Cabinet in March last year, sets out key requirements to establish a system of effective regulatory and oversight services to ensure the protection of public health and consumers.

Under the draft law, no food may be imported into the country for the first time without approval of the Ministry of Environment and Water.

The draft law provides for a prison term of not less than a month and a fine of up to Dh500,000 for those who deal in food or products that contain pork or alcohol or any of their by-products without permission.

Misleading consumers by publishing a false description of food or using incorrect labels will attract a fine ranging from between Dh10,000 and Dh100,000, according to the draft law, which will need to be passed by the House and get a final endorsement by President His Highness Shaikh Khalifa Bin Zayed Al Nahyan before it becomes law.

I still prefer name and shame: Name and Fame for Dubai restaurants

Customers will soon be able to view a food safety grade on the entrance of Dubai food outlets as part of an upcoming “Name and Fame” scheme, an official said on Sunday.

scarlet.letterThe scheme will reveal whether the outlet has passed, failed or obtained a conditional pass in official food safety inspections.

It will also assign what will probably be a letter grade indicating the level of compliance, with “A” being the highest and “E” the lowest.

The scheme was announced during the ninth Dubai International Food Safety Conference, which lasts until Tuesday.

“We want to let consumers know who’s doing well. It’ll invite people to make food safety their priority,” Sultan Al Tahir, head of inspections at Dubai Municipality’s food control department, said.

“The grade will be posted outside the place. We’ll implement this in the future.”

Al Tahir said more than 200 out of 13,000 food establishments in Dubai are of A-grade standing. Those falling in the E category are 430.

It is understood the grades will be revised if necessary after scheduled and spot food safety inspection results.

Also planned for consumers is a smart barcode system which will let smartphone users scan the product information on the packaging of all food products in the UAE, said Khalid Mohammad Sharif, the municipality department’s executive director.

qr.code.rest.inspection.gradeUsing an app in their smart device, customers will be able to scan a code that will reveal a catalogue of information, such as nutrition facts, expiry date, ingredients, and country of origin.

The code will also reveal if the product has ever been flagged by authorities.

“Consumers will know if it has had any previous history. It means more control and transparency, which is good for everybody. All of that will be on your smartphone,” Sharif added.

The system will also reveal if the product is registered with federal authorities, which will become mandatory some time in 2015, he said.

The Dubai Municipality plans to shut down food outlets that do not raise their food safety standards to the highest level before the emirate hosts the World Expo in 2020, a senior official revealed on Sunday.

“We want all food outlets in Dubai to be in ‘A’ and ‘B’ categories. We don’t want any restaurant or hotel below those grades by 2020,” Khalid Mohammed Sherif Al Awadhi said.

Speaking to Khaleej Times on the sidelines of the 9th Dubai International Food Safety Conference (DIFSC) on Sunday, Al Awadhi said it is high time that eateries raised their standards to make Dubai the best place to dine in.

Hysteria? There’s a cure for that

Hysteria is what doctors used to diagnose in women who were, um, deprived?

It lead to the invention of the vibrator.

Maggie Gyllenhaal has a movie about it.

Ten days ago, workers at an Al Ruwais labor camp in UAE were admitted to hospital complaining of food poisoning.

At the time, food safety authorities said the laborers were suffering from mass hysteria.

The National now reports that 18 food outlets in the Western Region of Abu Dhabi were charged for food-safety offences after surprise inspections at catering companies and labor camps.

The Abu Dhabi Food Control Authority issued warnings to seven establishments and destroyed more than 700 kilograms of food. Only nine of 35 outlets were found to be complying with the authority’s regulations.
 

Food safety improvements in Dubai; UAE is more than Sex and the City II

I didn’t know Chapman knew Arabic.

But there he was, goofy pic and all (right, exactly as shown, any of them), in the Daily Bite at the Dubai food safety conference, saying something about how wonderful it all was.

In real news, Dubai is joining PulseNet International, which monitors foodborne bacteria through their DNA fingerprints.

Dr Peter Gerner-Smidt, a speaker at the conference and a member of the PulseNet International Steering Committee said the network offers real time surveillance resulting in early detection and warnings.

“If you routinely use PulseNet to detect outbreaks then you will detect many more outbreaks and you will also be able to solve them to derive what the causes are and using that information you can make food much safer,” he told Khaleej Times. “In Dubai, you import most of your foods. So I would think that a lot of the problems you are going to detect here will be present in other places in the world. So they will need to work with the PulseNet Middle East and Pulse Net International to make the investigation ?international.

Bobby ”Bobby” Krishna (pretty much as shown, left) Dubai’s Senior Food Studies and Surveys Officer said Dubai Municipality would be working in association with its counterpart in Abu Dhabi and the health authorities in both the emirates for becoming active partners in the network.

Kannangot Pallikkal Yousuf did not have a 12th grade pass certificate when he arrived in Dubai 13 years ago.

He found a job as a delivery boy with a supermarket under the Talal Group. In seven years, he climbed the ranks to become salesman, cashier and then to a hygiene supervisor. After six years’ of experience in that post, Yousuf has now earned a special recognition for his knowledge in food safety and hygiene matters, thanks to the Dubai Municipality’s Person-in-Charge (PIC) programme that mandates a food safety manager in every food outlet in Dubai.

Yousuf is now a PIC, supervising the hygiene and food safety matters in the Talal Supermarket in Deira YB Road.

The story of this 31-year-old Indian expatriate from Kerala is a classic example of how the municipality’s Food Control Department is revolutionising food safety in Dubai eateries by ensuring trained and certified personnel as food safety managers in each food outlet.

And there’s Chapman again PICs, restaurant and hotel managers and chefs will attend a workshop Thursday to enhance their skills in managing food facilities so that employees are trained on processes with validated hazard control. The workshop titled “Person in Charge-Plan and Control of Food safety in Retail Food Operations” is being organized as a post-event session of the 7th Dubai International Food Safety Conference that concluded on Wednesday.

Dr. O Peter Snyder, founder and president of Hospitality Institute of Technology and Management in Minnesota and Dr. Ben Chapman, an assistant professor and food safety extension specialist at North Carolina State University will conduct the workshop at the Dubai International Convention and Exhibition Centre.

And while I left before the closing day of the 7th Dubai International Food Safety conference, which apparently hosted a “cream of experts in the field of food safety,” because I had already been there for 12 days, which was the longest I’d been away from wife and child – ever. Chapman and I hung out by the pool and e-mailed each other about future research, but on my last night, the wind was so strong it impacted the wireless and we returned to our respective rooms. See you in a few more years. Attendance is not a criteria for teaching, research or extension. Performance is.

Happy birthday, Pete.

Good use of smartphones: pics of steak served – with worms – at well-known UAE restaurant

Emirates 24/7 reports that a man who wanted a steak went to a famous food chain’s outlet at Sharjah’s Sahara Centre and ordered one.

As the dish was served, his hunger instantly turned into disgust as there were worms in the plate.

Infuriated, Bahaa Hijazi quickly took shots of the plate with his mobile phone, summoned the restaurant manager and protested.

The manager said sorry and offered him another free meal.

“But of course I refused and told him it is not a matter of another meal… it has to do with negligence and unhygienic practices at the restaurant,” Hijazi said, quoted by the Arabic language daily Emirat Alyoum on Saturday.

“I made clear to him that there should be an investigation and those responsible for this must be punished… I then called the Sharjah Municipality.”

Hijazi said a municipal inspector who came to the restaurant later met the manager, talked to him and fined him.

“This is not enough… the inspector did not bother take the normal procedures in such cases and enter the restaurant to check storage and the workers… I feel there the fine was not enough and stricter measures must be taken.”
 

Workers’ ‘squalid’ catering unit in UAE closed after hundreds fall sick

The United Arab Emirates has made food safety a priority, and food service companies have apparently imported some Western-style BS explanations when people barf.

A spokesthingy for a labor camp operated by Abu Dhabi-based Al Jaber Group, told The National.

"The safety of our staff is our utmost priority. … In more than two decades of operation, and serving 150,000 meals a day all over the UAE, this is the first instance of food poisoning at any of our camps."

Not much consolation to the 236 workers who were diagnosed with food poisoning; the catering unit was found to be operating without a licence and under "squalid conditions."

Investigators from the Abu Dhabi Food Control Authority (ADFCA) have closed down the catering unit at the Habshan Labour Camp after 117 workers were taken to Madinat Zayed Hospital on Saturday and Sunday, and a further 119 were treated on site at the camp.

Inspectors found cockroaches inside the water dispensers and destroyed 675kg of cooked rice which was kept in "unsafe conditions for more than four hours", according to a statement released by ADFCA.

The inspection report stated the camp, which caters for 2,200 workers, was "violating all norms of hygiene and disregarding the health consequences for the labourers."

Cross-contamination – mixing meat, poultry and vegetables, both raw and uncooked, in the same freezer – was apparent, and food products did not have manufacturing details on them, so may have been expired, the report said.

Mohammed al Reyaysa, the director of communications at ADFCA, described the conditions as "shocking" and said "the people behind this disaster will not go unpunished."

Name and shame arrives in United Arab Emirates

The Australians popularized the ‘name and shame’ approach to restaurant inspection disclosure (the Brits use ‘scores on doors,’ those in Toronto use pretty colors and Danes use smiley faces).

Mohammed al Reyaysa, the Abu Dhabi Food Control Authority’s spokesman, told The National today that restaurant operators promised to improve hygiene standards after the emirate’s food safety watchdog named 17 outlets that were temporarily closed because of violations, adding,

“When all efforts fail, we are left with no other option but to order the closure of the outlet that functions in utter disregard for public health and the law of the land. The health and safety of the consumer is the red line that should not be crossed in any circumstance.”

Of the 17 establishments that were closed this year, 15 were in Abu Dhabi city and two were in Al Gharbia.

They were allowed to reopen after the Food Control Authority was confident the violations had been corrected.

Mr al Reyaysa further noted the restaurants closed were “fraught with potential danger to the health of the consumers”, such as kitchens infested with insects, improper drainage systems and waste disposal, and mixing meat and fruits.

He also criticized restaurants that complain inspections are too rigorous.

“We have clear requirements and regulations that are based on global best practices. We are not less, and our consumers are not less, than those in Europe and America. We do not sacrifice the health of the consumer so establishments can make more money or avoid having their names mentioned in the media.”