Disinfection drive at supermarkets and bakeries Image Credit: Supplied

Dubai: Is it safe to consume food products after a disinfection drive inside supermarkets and other food outlets? Gulf News asked Dubai authorities and retailers and this is what they said.

According to a Dubai Municipality official, all products used in disinfection and sterilisation in the emirate are evaluated and registered in the “Montaji” system and app.

“They contain the same active substances mentioned in the lists approved by the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Centre for Antibacterial Chemicals (CBC). These are the same materials recommended by the World Health Organisation (WHO) as active ingredients during sterilisation processes,” the civic authority said in a statement to Gulf News.

Should I sanitise or discard boxes/packages?

Dubai Health Authority (DHA), also recently released guidelines for safe shopping. The authority advised consumers to sanitise all purchases and dispose of shopping bags to avoid the spread of germs.

“Residents must wash their hands properly after that,” the authority said.

According to the Food Safety Department of Dubai Municipality, the biggest risk of contamination in stores remains contact with other people and “high-touch” surfaces like weighing scales, shopping carts and elevator buttons.

People have to follow the safety precautions for shopping [see the box on guidelines] and ensure that they wash their hands before consuming any food, the municipality said.

The department has also assured that ordering food is safe. “People just have to assure washing hands after receiving the delivery and before consuming the food.” [See the box on guidelines for online delivery].

The Food Safety Department is constantly visiting all food premises in Dubai to assure the compliance of safety and hygiene requirements, the municipality said.

It also assured the implementation of basic personal hygiene requirements and practices such as sanitising hands frequently and avoiding face touching by food handlers.

Retail chains speak

Major retail chains have also assured that they are using products that are licensed and harmless for humans inside their stores.

According to a Dubai Municipality official, all products used in disinfection and sterilisation in the emirate are evaluated and registered in the “Montaji” system and app Image Credit: Supplied

“The products and process of disinfection inside our premises are done totally as per the standards and guidelines set by relevant authorities. They are safe to use on packaged products,” V. Nandakumar, chief communications officer, Lulu Group, told Gulf News.

Nandakumar clarified that disinfectants are not used on bakery items and other ready-to-use food products.

“We have strict hygiene practices for our staff and premises and we would always recommend our customers to follow necessary safety precautions while shopping inside the stores and while receiving delivery.”

Dr. Suhail Al-Bastaki, director of Happiness and Marketing Department at Union Coop said the chain is pursuing additional measures in cases of home delivery, to ensure safety and security of consumers.

“[This is] by including the provision of appropriate transportation based on the requirements of a specific product, thereby conforming to the food safety system, routinely cleaning the interior and exterior parts of food storage and transport units comprehensively and also the areas that come in human contact by using disinfectants approved by Dubai Municipality.”

According to the Food Safety Department of Dubai Municipality, the biggest risk of contamination in stores remains contact with other people and “high-touch” surfaces like weighing scales, shopping carts and elevator buttons Image Credit: Supplied

Additionally, he said the delivery officer is committed to taking adequate health precautions at all times, which includes ‘immediate work stoppage’ in case of symptoms of flu such as fever, cough or any other symptoms, routine hand-washing with water, soap or approved sterilisation disinfectants before and after each operation.

“All the staff have been briefed and trained to avoid contact with face, nose, mouth, eyes and use masks, gloves and take other necessary safety measures to ensure product safety and security,” said Al Bastaki.

Several shops are also offering contactless delivery options to enhance safety of delivery service.

Your bread is safe to eat

Precautions are being taken to ensure bakery showrooms are disinfected.

Take the case of the UAE’s largest bread manufacturer, Modern Bakery. The bakery – which produces 90 per cent of bread to UAE, KSA and Oman - recently conducted an extensive sterilisation drive in its Hamdan showroom in Abu Dhabi. “We have a responsibility to our consumers and we did not want to waste any time undertaking the sterilisation drive,” said Ismail Mohammed, Senior Production Manager at Modern Bakery which also produces 30 to 40 tonnes of flour daily.

“The best thing is that we did not have to close down our showroom after the disinfection. It is a very practical solution indeed. The entire process took 45 minutes to be completed. Owing to the sensitivity of the situation and the easy application involved, we requested the company we hired for the job to bring limited people for doing the job. We wanted to lower the risk of COVID-19 spread,” said Mohmmed.

Your bread is safe to eat Image Credit: Supplied

What did the sterilisation involve?

Duncan Pearce, Managing Partner HPL Pest Control Services LLC which did the sterilisation at Modern Bakery explained: “A disinfectant called Anolyte was placed inside a misting machine, used to spray the showroom. Every corner of the showroom was covered including packed food items. The disinfectant is approved by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), an independent agency, of USA. It is produced on site with an Electro-chemically activated (ECA) machine.”

Sterilisation drive at Modern Bakery

How safe is it?

“The disinfectant we used is extremely safe as it is made of 98.8 per cent water. It is safe for humans to handle it as well as safe to be used on packed food. After the sanitisation of the bakery, it was business as usual. There was no need to shut the shop so it is a very safe option?”

“The concept of Anolyte has been around since the 1800’s. It was used during the second world war battle fields to combat infections on wounded soldiers. It is nothing but water mixed with salt to make a brine then electrical current is passed through to produce Anolyte – an eco-friendly disinfectant,” said Pearce.

Special eco-friendly disinfectant being used at Modern Bakery Image Credit: Supplied

How long lasting is it?

“It depends on how many people use the area. It is a bit like sanitising your hands. If you keep using your hands then the sanitizer will become less effective. But usually it lasts up to a month.”

Guidelines for safe shopping (Source DHA and DM)

  • Use online delivery services wherever possible
  • Strictly avoid grocery shopping if you are sick
  • Only go out to buy essential supplies
  • Choose the right time to shop
  • Go alone for shopping
  • Avoid peak and crowded times
  • Observe all safety precautions before leaving the house
  • Wear gloves and a face mask.
  • When shopping in a store, sanitise the handle of shopping cart or shopping basket, and then sanitise your hands
  • Be patient and stay in line to get food items
  • Keep a safe distance (not less than two meters) from others
  • Avoid touching your face, nose, and mouth before washing your hands.
  • Avoid using banknotes, instead use credit/debit cards
  • Sanitise the card and hands after making payments.
  • Disposing of the shopping bags to avoid the spread of germs
  • Sanitise all packaged purchases after reaching home
  • Wash hands for 20 seconds with soap and water both after returning home from the supermarket and after handling purchased items

Guidelines for online food delivery (Source DM)

  • Choose e-payment
  • If e-payment is unavailable, use card payment instead of cash payment
  • Avoid receiving orders directly
  • Ask delivery service to leave it at the door
  • Get rid of the covers and outer boxes
  • Wash hands with soap and water for 20 seconds after receiving the order and before eating