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Dubai: With more than two dozen food poisoning cases linked to consumption of unsafe egg products reporteded in the first half of this year, Dubai Municipality on Sunday launched a weeklong campaign to raise awareness about safe shopping, storing, and preparation of eggs.

“Since some of the cases could be attributed to unsafe egg products, we decided to increase awareness about them,” said Sultan Ali Al Taher, acting director of Food Safety Department during the launch of the “Together for Food Safety” campaign at Lulu Hypermarket in Al Warqa.

“As many egg-based products such as tiramisu, chocolate mousse, garlic paste and freshly made mayonnaise use raw eggs as part of their recipes, the Food Safety Department aims to emphasise the importance of proper handling, cooking and storing of eggs,” he said.

Bobby Krishna, Food Safety Specialist at Dubai Municipality’s Food Safety Department, explains how to check freshness of eggs. Sajila Saseendran/Gulf News

There were about 800 cases of food poisoning in the first six months of 2018 in which officials identified the pathogen, said Bobby Krishna, food safety specialist. He said the cases included those with fresh travel history as well.

“Of these, around 180 were linked to salmonella infection and 26 cases were due to salmonella enteritidis infection that is generally caused by unsafe egg products.”

Fever, abdominal cramps and diarrhoea are the main symptoms of this disease.

“This is an international concern and we are identifying more cases with better capacities. This campaign will make both the industry and the consumers better aware of food safety related to egg products,” said Krishna.

The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) estimates that 79,000 cases of food-borne illness and 30 deaths each year are caused by eating eggs contaminated with salmonella.

Jehaina Hassan Al Ali, head of awareness and applied nutrition unit, pointed out that the eggs are nutritious and healthy and can contribute to healthy diet.

“We are trying to emphasise that safe handling, and cooking will provide optimal benefits from eggs and egg products.”

Officials said people should avoid storing eggs in compartments on the fridge doors that expose them to warm air every time the door is opened. Instead, eggs should be stored in the colder, main compartment of the fridge.

Krishna advised people to check freshness of an egg by breaking it on to a pan. The fresher the egg, the thicker will be the top white layer holding the yolk. As the egg becomes older, the thick white layer spreads into the thinner layer beneath it.

New guidelines

In 2012, Dubai eateries were barred from using raw eggs in ready-to-eat products after authorities found them to be the cause for many salmonella infections reported here.

As part of the latest campaign, Al Ali said, the municipality has issued new guidelines for the food businesses on safe egg handling. Training workshops will be conducted for 200 food handlers.

Those trained will be asked to take a pledge to implement the safety guidelines, Al Ali said.

“We are asking food services to pool eggs in small batches and use it immediately or refrigerate at 4 degree Celsius.”

Krishna said it is also important to properly cook dishes like fried chicken and chicken nuggets using egg batter to avoid risk.

Apart from temperature control, doing external checks to ensure that there are no broken eggs that may cause contamination is also necessary.

In products that are lightly cooked, pasteurised eggs must be used. Food outlets have also been advised to use alternate options to make traditional egg-based products safer.

Specially designed awareness materials, quiz competitions and drawing competitions are arranged in five main branches of Lulu Hypermarket this week to educate consumers, said Suraj Parakat, the group’s hygiene manager.

The municipality plans to hold the campaign at Choithrams and other hypermarkets in the coming weeks.

How to make sure eggs are safe for consumption

■  Always buy well-refrigerated eggs
■  Don’t buy dirty and cracked eggs
■  Check date of production and shelf-life for maximum protection
■  Buy eggs from trustworthy sources
■  Purchase eggs along with other cold products towards the end of shopping
■  Store eggs in a safe place in your car so that they don’t break
■  Do not leave them in a car that is not air-conditioned for a long time
■  Take eggs home quickly to prevent heat from affecting them
■  Do not wash eggs as it removes the protective coating which prevents bacteria from entering through the pores
■  Store eggs in the coldest part of the refrigerator below the freezer
■  Wash your hands thoroughly before and after handling eggs
■  It is recommended that eggs are cooked until both the yolk and white are firm
■  Never leave cooked eggs outside for more than two hours
■  Refrigerate and consume any food cooked with eggs within 3-4 days
■  Pasteurised eggs should be used in recipes containing raw eggs such as chocolate mousse, Caesar sauce, home-made mayonnaise, and tiramisu.
■  If you decide to use normal eggs, be sure to consume it the same day.
■  Clean kitchen utensils and counters after handling eggs and egg products