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Dubai to apply whole genome sequencing to tackle food poisoning

11th Dubai International Food Safety Conference to discuss application of modern food safety techniques

Gulf News

Dubai: Dubai is striving to become a regional centre of whole genome sequencing for investigating food poisoning cases and improving food safety, officials said ahead of an international conference that will explore this new technique in detail.

The Food Safety Department of Dubai Municipality has tied up with the US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) for training and establishing the laboratory facilities for this, said Khalid Mohammad Sharif Al Awadhi, assistant director general for health, safety and environment control.

“The plan is to have a centre in the region for whole genome sequencing in the field of food safety,” he said in reply to a question by Gulf News.

Some officials of the department have already visited CDC and got some training in genome sequencing and fingerprinting of organisms that cause foodborne diseases, said Bashir Yousuf, a food safety expert at the municipality.

Bobby Krishna, the municipality’s principal food inspector and food safety specialist, said whole genome sequencing will be a more accurate way of detecting the source of a foodborne disease outbreak. By sequencing the entire genome of the organism, Krishna said, the time required to trace the source of food poisoning will be reduced and it will help detect the exact source quickly.

For example, if investigators could trace the source of a foodborne disease as egg earlier, with whole genome sequencing they will know from which farm the egg came and can quickly contain the outbreak by taking preventive measures, he explained.

However, he said the whole set-up would take at least a couple of years.

“The whole genome sequencing will be standardised only by the end of 2019. We need to be trained, we will procure and run the equipment and validate them. We have to go through the entire process and that is what we are doing right now.”

“Once we connect to the PulseNet International [a lab network that monitors food-borne bacteria through their DNA fingerprints], we can compare the organisms with the international data.”

The use of such high-tech tools in food safety will be a topic of discussion at the 11th Dubai International Food Safety Conference, which will be held from November 19 to 21 at Dubai International Convention Centre, Hussain Nasser Lootah, director general of Dubai Municipality, announced at the press conference.

With the theme Predict … Prevent … Protect, the conference will also discuss other trending technologies such as Artificial Intelligence; Big Data, IoT (Internet of Things) Devices and their uses in food safety.

The topics of the conference will focus on the application of forecasting, tracking and pro-preventive measures that benefit from modern food safety techniques in the light of the enormous information revolution that has taken place all over the world, Lootah said.

Full details about the conference topics, speakers and registration are available at www.foodsafetydubai.com

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