Dubai: Dubai Municipality has deferred the mandatory rule for food outlets to publish calories of every item in menus by two years, a senior official has confirmed to Gulf News.
“Displaying calories in menus will be optional for next two years,” said Khalid Mohammad Sherif Al Awadhi, CEO of the environment, health and safety control sector at Dubai Municipality.
He said the civic body decided to postpone the implementation of the rule, which was aimed at helping diners make informed choices for healthy food, “to allow enough time for the industry to prepare itself.”
Who had to do it?
As per the previous decision announced on May 18, restaurants, cafeterias and cafes with more than five branches were expected to mandatorily display the caloric value of each and every food item from November this year.
All other restaurants, catering establishments and hotels were given the deadline of January 2020 to implement the rule.
However, Al Awadhi said the Food Safety Department will continue to encourage food establishments to declare calorie content.
“Several companies have already come forward to do it voluntarily. We have already got confirmation from around 700 entities that they will be displaying calories in their menus.”
However, he acknowledged that the civic body also got feedback from several other eateries about the need for more time to implement the rule, prompting the new decision.
Some restaurants have welcomed the move.
Zubair Abdullah, manager of the Tecom branch of Indian restaurant chain Wide Range, said: “It was not an easy task for all the eateries, especially Indian restaurants like ours. We have very complex recipes.”
“We were also concerned that this will be an additional burden on restaurants already struggling in the current market situation. It is great that the municipality will give us more time to study this new procedure and then implement it gradually.”
Iman Al Bastaki, director of Food Safety Department, had earlier told Gulf News that the department had also prepared guidelines for food services establishment on calorie labelling of food.
“These guidelines will help businesses with the most common questions about implementing this decision.”
She had also clarified that food establishments were free to choose the services of qualified professionals or compute the caloric value of ingredients by using third-party software.
“They can use nutrition analysis software, or any food service operation software with options for nutrition analysis using food and nutrient database. Or else they can consult a nutritionist or dietitian or a chef trained in nutritional analysis to compute the caloric value of ingredients in each food item,” the official said while addressing concerns of eateries highlighted by Gulf News.