The Emirates Authority for Standardisation and Metrology (ESMA) has updated the requirements for the processing and handling of shawarma sandwiches prepared from frozen and refrigerated Meat, to prevent the exposure of these food products to pollution as being perishable. Image Credit: Courtesy: ESMA

Dubai: Shawarma joints across the country will now have to adhere to new standards issued by the Emirates Authority for Standardisation and Metrology (Esma).

Esma announced on Saturday that it was enforcing new federal standards that would tighten controls at all stages of preparing the region’s most popular fast-food item.

According to Abdullah Al Muaini, director-general of Esma, the standard No. 1060 UAE.S GSO covers the processing and handling of shawarma in an effort to ensure conformity of products to the highest levels of safety.

“Shawarma is a fast-food product that is popular with a wide range of consumers; thousands of sandwiches are sold daily in restaurants as well as cafes. It was necessary to establish controls for trading in this product to ensure the protection of the health and safety of consumers,” said Al Muaini.

The new specifications cover the facilities and places where meat used for shawarma is processed, tools and equipment used for processing, sanitary conditions of the workers, preparation and processing of shawarma, packaging and warehousing, supply and sale.

Khalaf Khalaf, director of the Standards Department of Esma, said the new regulations would look at procedures that contribute to the achievement of more safety indicators in consumer goods as well as taking care of any risks related to poor storage or supply.

He explained that the main ingredients of shawarma, the meat, should be slaughtered in a slaughterhouse according to the GSO standard, and the product should be processed according to the same health conditions.

He added that the product should be completely free of all that contravenes the provisions of Sharia.

“Apart from focusing on the meat-processing units, the new requirements also prohibit the practice of roasting and selling outside the limits of the shop, in order to protect the food from external pollutants and sources of dust and pollution,” said Khalaf.

The specifications also ensure the cook preparing the shawarma must have a valid health certificate issued by the official authorities, and he should be free from infectious diseases, respiratory diseases, wounds and ulcers.

“The cooks should also adhere to the rules of hygiene during working hours such as washing hands with soap and water, and avoid behaviours that may lead to pollution of shawarma such as smoking,” he added.