Dubai Municipality has a major presence at Gulfood Image Credit: Supplied

Dubai: A new ‘Green Channel’ for food imports that is aimed to make groceries arrive faster and cheaper in Dubai markets has started receiving shipments, a senior official said at the ongoing Gulfood 2023 trade show.

The Green Channel is an initiative of Dubai Municipality that was announced during the Dubai International Food Safety Conference in November 2022.

Sultan Ali Al Taher

“We received our first shipment [through the Green Channel] in January,” Sultan Ali Al Taher, director of the Food Safety Department told Gulf News.

He was speaking at the Municipality’s pavilion at Gulfood, the largest annual food and beverage trade event that kicked off on Monday.

Al Taher said the department now has a selected number of companies on the list for Green Channel, based on their history over the previous three years.

“All companies are evaluated based on their history in our system, and food safety and quality in their respective countries,” he pointed out.

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How will it cut costs?

The municipality is in the first phase of the initiative and a few companies have already benefited greatly from this initiative, with more companies expected to join in the coming months, the official said.

The Green Channel uses Artificial Intelligence (AI) and machine learning techniques to ensure safe and high quality foods from reputed companies and countries of origin are released directly to the market without causing delays at the ports.

According to food safety experts, this will bring down import time and operational cost, thereby reducing the cost of grocery items imported to Dubai. The move is also expected to push food importing businesses to achieve higher safety standards to enter the Green Channel.

Risk assessment

The municipality said the Green Channel utilises smart technology to rapidly analyse the chemical, microbial, and physical risk assessment data of food products and identify any potential risks associated with their country of origin.

By doing so, the initiative enables the Municipality to quickly approve the release of shipments that are compliant. Meanwhile, it also prevents the entry of non-compliant food items that do not adhere to the standards and regulations of the country’s food authorities.

The initiative seeks to establish a global blueprint for a secure digital food system that enhances food safety, promotes food security, and improves quality of life.

It also aims to reduce inspection-related burdens and expedite the release of imported food using AI and machine learning technologies. This builds on previous successful efforts to conduct research, develop innovative technologies, and engage in digital transformation through data analysis.

Al Taher said primarily low-risk foods are given import approval through the Green Channel.

Impact of food safety

Earlier, Dawoud Al Hajri, Director General of Dubai Municipality, said the Municipality’s participation in Gulfood aims to educate food product merchants and importers on the latest quality and safety procedures, as well as how to implement them.

“Additionally, the Municipality is highlighting important services and initiatives it offers in this area in Dubai, a crucial hub for the food industry in both the regional and global economy.”

Al Hajri pointed out that ensuring the safety of food is crucial because it has a direct impact on people’s health and Dubai’s reputation.

“As a result, our top priority is to ensure that all food establishments comply with standards. Dubai Municipality is dedicated to enhancing trust in food safety by utilising integrated ecosystems and implementing the best international and local practices. We also establish and employ uniform monitoring procedures for imported food institutions in Dubai to guarantee the safety of their products and activities. Additionally, we strive to raise awareness of food safety and uphold the highest food hygiene standards in the city.”

Through its pavilion, Dubai Municipality is welcoming visitors, official and non-official delegations from various countries around the world, to discuss key topics in food safety with experts in the field. The pavilion will further introduce smart practices in the food safety field, aiming at facilitating procedures that promote the seamless flow of food between countries.