Abu Dhabi

A tough new law ramping up penalties for those found to be endangering food safety across the UAE, was approved by President His Highness Shaikh Khalifa Bin Zayed Al Nahyan.

The law, published in the latest edition of the official gazette and taking effect from July 1, provides for a jail term of up to three years and a Dh2 million fine for those found endangering food safety.

The legislation, passed by the Federal National Council 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.

“Out of more than 200,000 goods and commodities in the UAE’s markets, only 6,500 goods, including 300 foods, are covered by standards of the federal watchdog,” according to a report made by an ad-hoc FNC committee.

The House was told recently many foods cause deaths and lethal ailments due to non-conformity with standards.

Members of the House stressed that with more than 80 per cent of food products in the UAE being imported, the country has to compete in a global trading system where increasingly stringent requirements apply with regard to product quality, safety, health and environmental impact.

The representatives said consumers need proof from internationally recognised institutions that their products conform to these requirements.

Dr Rashid Ahmad Bin Fahd, Minister of Environment and Water, told the council that last year, out of the 10 million tonnes of food imported into the UAE, only 3 per cent was rejected, mainly due to labelling issues.

“The UAE is recognised as a well regulated market, with other countries trusting our standards and conformity infrastructure. The country has a well-established standardisation body, it harmonises standards at the local and federal level and participates in regional and international standards-setting activities,” Dr Bin Fahd said.

Under the legislation, dealers in foods confiscated as per the new regulations will face a prison term of up to two years, a fine of between Dh100,000 and Dh300,000 or both.

The new regulation also penalises attempts to endanger food safety with the same penalties for actual offences.

The law authorises the Ministry of Economy to impose fines of up to Dh100,000 for other offences, provided that these offences are regulated by the Cabinet.

Some aspects of the food law

1)No food may be imported into the country for the first time without approval of the Ministry of Environment and Water.

2) Those dealing in food or products that contain pork or alcohol or any of their by-products without permission face a prison term of not less than a month and a fine of up to Dh500,000.

3) Misleading consumers by publishing a false description of food or using incorrect labels will attract a fine ranging from Dh10,000 to Dh100,000.