Hussain Nasser Lootah, Director General of Dubai Municipality launches the Food Watch digital platform at the opening ceremony of 11th Dubai International Food Safety Conference on Sunday. Image Credit: Sajila Saseendran/ Gulf News

Dubai: All food coming to Dubai and all eateries here are being digitally profiled to ensure better food safety and help diners quickly choose their food preferences. 

The safety of food and quicker access to nutritional information will get a boost with a mobile app following the launch of the digital platform that covers all the food establishments in the emirate.

Called “Food Watch,” the high-tech system will completely digitalise food safety and nutritional information of all food items served through around 20,000 establishments before Dubai hosts Expo 2020, officials said on Sunday.

The groundbreaking predictive digital platform for food safety and nutrition will connect every person in the food industry. 

It will replace paper works in food companies and help consumers choose eateries and food items based on their dietary preferences and personal choices of facilities.

Hussain Nasser Lootah, director general of Dubai Municipality launched the digital platform at the opening ceremony of 11th Dubai International Food Safety Conference. 

Speaking to Gulf News, he said it will enable consumers to customise their food selection according to their preferences.

“They can see the location of the restaurants, they can check what types of food items are available and their ingredients. They can choose organic food or healthy food or any other type of food they prefer.”

Noura Al Shamsi, head of Applied Nutrition and Permits Section at the Food Safety Department, said all food establishments in Dubai will be registered in the system which will use a website and a mobile app. “This system will help us trace the safety of food throughout the food chain, from farm to fork," she said. — Photo credit:  Sajila Saseendran

Noura Al Shamsi, head of Applied Nutrition and Permits Section at the Food Safety Department, said all food establishments in Dubai will be registered in the system which will use a website and a mobile app. 

“This system will help us trace the safety of food throughout the food chain, from farm to fork. It will have customised interfaces [such as a website and mobile apps] for the department, food companies and consumers. We are now building the database and infrastructure for implementing this in different phases.”

Dubai imports approximately $200 billion of food from around 200 countries. 
Al Shamsi said the municipality is currently working with various governments and food companies for the implementation of the digital system. It has also issued a circular to food establishments here about it. A team of over 100 experts has already been working on creating the database and infrastructure.

Future of food safety 

The implementation of data compliling will begin with food establishments handling high-risk foods. However, all other food establishments will also have to update all the information about their food items, and their health and nutritional claims in the system eventually. 

They will also be required to provide details of their premises and food handlers which will benefit inspectors and consumers. 

“It is the future of the Food Safety Department in Dubai,” said Al Shamsi, who is also the chairperson of the DIFSC.

“This is how food safety monitoring and food purchases will be done here by the time we host the Expo in 2020. Everything about all the food items here will be available on the digital platform of Food Watch.” 

“[Based on the data available], we can take action [if any violation or food poisoning is reported], we can share data, we can have Big Data and use it to predict food-borne issues prevent illnesses and protect the consumers.”

The three-day conference this year is being held under the theme “Predict. Prevent. Protect.” 

Food safety experts from across the globe will discuss various aspects of food safety, mainly focusing on the role of technology like Big Data and Internet of Things (IoT) in boosting food safety.

“The future will be all about IoT, block chain and Big Data in food safety. We have already included these aspects in our system as per the vision of the government,” said Al Shamsi.

Mitigating food-borne illnesses

Speaking at the conference, international food safety expert Dr. Ruth Petran said data is a powerful tool for monitoring, controlling and verifying the causes and issues that lead to food-borne diseases.

“Mitigating food safety risks requires a holistic approach, from considering sustainability or questions surrounding local sourcing, to the inherent logistic complexities of today’s global supply chain,” said Dr. Petran, the vice-president of Food Safety and Public Health at Ecolab Inc.

She noted that food-borne illnesses are responsible for 420,000 deaths a year worldwide, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).

“Although food-borne diseases rank among the global community’s most preventable illnesses, a recent WHO report reveals that almost one in 10 people contract a food-related illness every year. Astonishingly, the loss of otherwise healthy life years attributed to premature death and disability caused by food-related illness is 33 million years annually,” she pointed out.