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Jehaina Hassan Al Ali announces the launch of the service to check safety ratings of restaurants on the Dubai Municipality app. Image Credit: Supplied

Dubai: Residents and visitors can now check food safety ratings of Dubai restaurants before visiting them — thanks to a new feature added to Dubai Municipality’s app.

The civic body’s unified app now offers a guide to restaurants’ food safety ratings, based on which customers can make their informed decision to eat out, said Jehaina Hassan Al Ali, acting manager, Permits and Applied Nutrition Section at the Food Safety Department, during a session on ‘Digitalisation initiatives for food safety and nutrition in Dubai’ at the 15th Dubai International Food Safety Conference that began here today.

Al Ali said there are around 22,000 food establishments in Dubai that include all entities licensed to perform food-related businesses. All the details pertaining to their menus, products, staff and food transportation system have been entered into the Food Safety Department’s online platform ‘Food Watch’.

More than 100,000 inspections are conducted by Food Safety inspectors on a yearly average and their ratings are issued to restaurants. “Having been digitised, our system gives real-time information to consumers. There is transparency and it also helps people to make better choices for themselves, before getting into a restaurant. Digitalisation makes life easier that way. It also increases competition between businesses to ensure that they are complying with the requirements of the Food Safety Department.”

Al Ali explained that the service to check restaurant ratings is in addition to the recently-launched service to check the registration status of food products on the Dubai Municipality app.

Meanwhile, Speaking to Gulf News on the sidelines of the conference, Khalid Mohammed Sharief Al Awadhi, CEO of Health, Safety and Environment Sector at Dubai Municipality, said the restaurant rating system on the app shows individual rating received by each branch of restaurant chains.

“There could be a difference in the food safety rating for one branch of a restaurant chain from another branch. You can check which one has a better rating on the app. This brings a lot of transparency and will make restaurants compete to improve their food safety standards.”

How to check restaurant ratings

On the Dubai Municipality app, go to the page ‘inquiry about a food establishment’. Write the food establishment’s name and address and get the ratings to ensure compliance with the required conditions and standards.

Digital training platform

At the conference, officials also announced the launch of a customised digital food safety training platform for food establishments in Dubai.

The new initiative is said to be the first ever digital training and engagement platform to be run by the government for delivering food safety management anytime and anywhere.

It is a joint venture of the Food Safety Department of Dubai Municipality and Dubai College of Tourism under Dubai Department of Tourism and Commerce Marketing (Dubai Tourism) which will be delivered through the Food Watch platform.

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The course module for the digital training programme is designed in such a way that training material is customised as per the requirement of specific food outlets or categories of food establishments. Image Credit: Supplied

The objective is to make sure that anyone working on food industry gets direct information about anything related to food safety in Dubai without having to undergo special in-person classes.

The course module is designed in such a way that training material is customised as per the requirement of specific food outlets or categories of food establishments.

Dubai eateries violating food safety rules will also get customised online training through the platform. For example, if there is any new update on food import regulations, a training module can be instantly updated on the system. If there is any outbreak of egg-related salmonella infection, there will be another training module that teaches restaurants on how to take precautions.

Similarly, when an inspector reports a violation, for example that of pests in the premises, the restaurant will automatically get instructions on how to tackle the situation. “Instead of taking an action only from a penalty point of view in the case of violations, we are make it an educational action. This is the way forward to improve the food safety culture in Dubai,” said Al Ali.

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Dubai food sector at a glance

1 million food items registered

8 million tonnes of food imported yearly

166 countries from which food is imported

3.4 million tonnes of food exported yearly

2 million products inspected on a yearly average

22,000 food establishments

300,000 number of food handlers

100,000 number of inspections on a yearly average

30,000 trainings and awareness sessions held on a yearly average