Dubai: A new Food Code clearly spells out new rules to ensure that all foods consumed within the emirate have been properly stored, handled, prepared and served.
According to Dubai Municipality, there were 13,000 food establishments including 3,000 restaurants and 480 hotels, in 2012 as well a long list of other food handling entities such as cafeterias, fast-food outlets, import and export firms and food transport firms.
More than eight million tonnes of food items were imported to Dubai last year from 180 foreign countries.
An increasing number of restaurants every year necessitated the need for a new food code, said authorities — the number of eateries has been on a gradual rise in Dubai over the last five years, with an annual growth from six to eight per cent.
“An integrated approach is necessary to ensure food safety from the place of primary production up to the point of consumption. The Food Control Department of Dubai Municipality will ensure that regulatory programmes are science- and risk-based as far as possible,” said Hussain Nasser Lootah, Director General of Dubai Municipality.
““The Food Code is designed to assist the persons in charge (PiCs) at food establishments to understand their obligations and to carry out operations as per the requirement.”
Khalid Sharif, director, Food Control Department at the municipality, said the new food code addresses a plethora of issues regarding food handling such as licensing, control of hazards of food, cleaning and maintenance, personal hygiene, food handler training and sourcing food.
“We previously had several grey areas in our regulations and different inspectors interpreted it in their own ways. With this new code, inspectors as well as owners of food establishments will have clear-cut guidelines on how their staff should behave, and how to keep their equipment clean and hygienic,” Sharif said.
“Each code has a technical justification so that [food handlers] know the importance of adhering to it. The code is mandatory and has been issued in simple terms, so there should be no excuses for people not to adhere to it,” Sharif said.
Basheer Yousuf, food safety expert at the Food Control Department, explained that one of the unclear areas in the municipality’s regulations was related to the control of food hazards.
The Code, which will be taught to inspectors and restaurant owners at workshops phased over the next two years, addresses the issue of food hazards, which range from food safety management, handling and processing food, re-heating food and how to prevent microbial contamination.
“What we have now is a code that consists of a combination of mandatory rules and strong recommendations so that [diners] will have meals served to them in a safer way than before,” said Yousuf.
The Food Code adopts the rules issued by the Municipality, Emirates Authority for Standardisation and Metrology, and international guidelines that have been adopted in the US, Canada, Australia, Ireland and Hong Kong.
The comprehensive Food Code will be applied in various phases across all chains of the food industry, from imports and exports to production and processing.
Officials also added that the Code will be periodically revised and revisions issued as supplements.
Food Code addresses key issues
A number of food hazard areas are directly addressed in the new Food Code to bring Dubai’s food sector up to internationally recognised standards, say municipal officials. Some highlights include:
* All ingredients must be inspected before food preparation
* Any ingredients that are off-colour, have strange odours, show evidence of pest contamination or suspected to be contamined in any other manner shall be discarded
* All foods must be properly handled, thawed, separated and refrigerated and used within 48 hours
* All foods to be served hot shall be served at least 60C
* Reheated cooked foods must not be re-cooled for further use
* Food handlers with cuts, wounds or lesions are not allowed to handle food or utensils
* Food handlers must maintain high level of personal hygiene at all times and wear proper hair and beard nets when necessary.
SOURCE: Dubai Municipality Food Code