People buying food for iftar outside a restaurant in Qusais, Dubai. Image Credit: ATIQ-UR-REHMAN/Gulf News

Dubai: With Ramadan approaching, restaurants and food establishments across Dubai have been warned to take approval from the civic body before selling and displaying snacks outside their shops.

“People are very fond of snack items to be included in their iftar items, and there have been cases where they forget what time they bought it and what levels of safety and hygiene they are kept in,” said Khalid Sharif, director of food control department at Dubai Municipality.

Food items can be displayed and sold at least two hours before iftar, and goods are not allowed to be sold outside the shops’ premises after iftar. The food control department has published the rules in different languages, such as Arabic, English, Urdu and Malayalam, in order to ensure that all communities in the city have been reached.

“It is a tradition to display and sell foods outside the establishments during Ramadan. But without prior approval from the food control department, no food establishment will be allowed to display or sell snacks outside their premises,” said Sharif.

The instructions issued by the food control department have been directed to all restaurants, cafeterias, sweet shops, bakeries and catering companies operating across the emirate.

All food items should be displayed in closed food cabinets that are suitable for food display and storage. Display cabinets must be located in a suitable place adequately protected from external contaminants.

“This year, we have assigned a team of experienced food inspectors to ensure the safety of all food items sold during Ramadan. Food establishments, such as restaurants and cafeterias, should co-operate with us and adhere to the rules and regulations,” he said.

Sultan Ali Tahir, head of food inspection section, explained that food outlets must refrain from preparing, cooking and reheating food outside their establishment.

“Cold foods should be kept in cold display units and hot foods should be in hot display units. However, if the proper form of temperature control is not used, the food must be consumed within two hours of preparation,” he said.

Public kitchens are also required to appoint a trained health supervisor, and all equipment used for preparation, storage and display should comply with approved municipal standards.