Dubai: Dubai eateries will have options to calculate calorie contents for display in the menus to comply with a new regulation that aims to help diners make informed choices, Dubai Municipality said.
However, it will be mandatory for them to display the caloric value of each and every item in the menu, in whichever form it is, at the point of sale for diners, the civic body clarified.
The clarification from the Food Safety Department follows the announcement that all food outlets in Dubai have to display calorie content of ready-to-eat foods by January 1, 2020. An early deadline of November 1, 2019 has been set for establishments with more than five branches to implement it.
On Monday, Gulf News reported about the confusion and concerns among eateries about the implementation of the rule.
Since they were still waiting to receive the circular and guidebook on the rule, eateries, whom we spoke to, were not clear if they will have to hire nutritionists to help with nutritional analysis or if the municipality will support them with an app to do the job.
Clarifying these concerns, Iman Ali Al Bastaki, director of Food Safety Department, told Gulf News that food establishments are 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 guidebook has clear instructions for labelling nutritional value with examples for manual calculation in Excel-sheet templates.
The department will have methods to verify the accuracy of the calculations through auditing. It will also provide an electronic-platform for computing the calories at a later stage, Al Bastaki said.
She said the circular had been sent across to the managements of food establishments and it would soon reach individual outlets via emails and inspectors. The circular and guidebook will also be posted on municipality’s portal www.dm.gov.ae within this week.
No deception allowed
However, the official made it clear that eateries, including fast food chains, will not be able to get away by displaying caloric value of food items in places other than the menu at the point of sale.
There are some establishments that already declare calorie content on packaging, flyers, tray mats, websites etc. But, the municipality wants everyone to display the caloric value against each item in the menu from which diners choose items at the point of sale.
“It cannot be hidden in food package or anywhere else. It has to be straight in the menu, next to the food item. It has to be at the point of sale.”
“If there is no menu, it should be in the menu boards or the menu displayed on tablets — basically, whichever form of the menu which the consumer checks for choosing the food.”
Al Bastaki said the municipality has provided ample time for food outlets to redesign and reprint the menus.
However, she clarified that the rule will not be mandatory, for the time being, for online menus displayed for food ordering services since the department is not regulating electronic platforms for food delivery.