Mariam bint Mohammed Almheiri, Minister of Climate Change and Environment (centre front) and Dawood Al Hajri (second from right), director-general of Dubai Municipality, during the opening of the conference Image Credit: Twitter/@DMunicipality

Dubai: Residents are set to get high quality food imports to Dubai faster and cheaper with the emirate launching a ‘Green Channel’ for import companies.

Dubai Municipality on Tuesday said the new initiative, that uses Artificial Intelligence (AI) and machine learning techniques, will 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 cost of food products. The move is also expected to push food importing businesses to achieve higher safety standards to enter the Green Channel.

Dawood Al Hajri, director-general of Dubai Municipality, announced the launch of the initiative during the opening ceremony of the 16th Dubai International Food Safety Conference on Tuesday.

“Last year, we announced Dubai Municipality’s plan that aims at facilitating the importation of food using AI to elevate safety. We now have the ‘Green Channel’ for the food businesses that fulfilled the criteria in the first phase,” said Al Hajri.

Earlier, Mariam bint Mohammed Almheiri, Minister of Climate Change and Environment, inaugurated the three-day conference at the Dubai International Convention Centre.

The minister highlighted the UAE’s commitment in prioritising food safety and security. Though COVID-19 pandemic posed a challenge, she said the UAE “dealt with an effective and wise approach to guarantee food items in the market and we made sure it is our priority to secure food for the present and future generations”.

How it works

Speaking to the media later, Al Hajrii said: “It is a channel that we have established between us and the big, reputed companies that import products from outside. We have made it very easy for them to get their products to the UAE through quick procedures using new technology.”

Sultan Ali Al Taher, director of the Food Safety Department at the municipality, said the first phase of the initiative will come into effect from January 2023.

He said the Green Channel initiative facilitates the flow of food shipments imported to the local market through entry points in the emirate after reviewing and checking the request to import the shipment electronically.

“This is done in accordance with the requirements and standards for the imported food products and the country of origin, in addition to the standards specified for importing companies,” he added.

He said the department is implementing the system in cooperation with Dubai Customs. “We are using technology to optimise the data to make sure that decisions are taken faster to release imported food from the ports.”

Food safety pledge

During the opening ceremony of the Food Safety Exhibition taking place on the sidelines of the conference, Dubai Municipality also launched a new website through which people can take a pledge to commit themselves to food safety.

The ‘food safety pledge’ website was launched by the minister. Al Mheiri and Al Hajri became the first to take the “Pledge to Food Safety” that encourages the community to develop a culture of food safety at homes and workplaces using the tips and guidelines provided by the Food Safety Department.

Al Mheiri (left) and Al Hajri (centre) were first to take the pledge Image Credit: Sajila Saseendran/Gulf News

“Through this campaign, we aim to secure a minimum of 1 million pledges from people of all walks,” said Jehaina Al Ali, manager of Food Permits and Applied Nutrition Section.

“We are trying to communicate and engage with children, housewives, housekeepers and helpers and also food entities and the people who work in different sectors to understand food safety in a simple way and become part of the safe food culture. We are promoting food safety awareness messages in different languages through this month-long campaign,” the manager added.

“This is our goal to ensure that we are giving the voice for food safety in the community. You will see the numbers [of pledges] on the site. We are planning to come up with provision to add names and occupations of the people who take the pledge as well.”

Al Ali said the municipality will conduct various activities, especially focussing on the youth to spread the message among them.

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Training in metaverse

The conference also discussed the scope of using metaverse for food safety training.

In line with Dubai Metaverse Strategy launched by Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Crown Prince of Dubai and the Chairman of The Executive Council, the municipality is working on incorporating metaverse in food safety training, said Al Ali.

Trainees will interact through their digital avatars Image Credit: Sajila Saseendran/Gulf News

“We are trying to ensure that training is more effective and more beneficial. We are focusing on engaging our target group from different backgrounds and different languages. We are testing all the technologies that we can introduce to this programme of training on food safety and we are looking into this experience and see the impact on their behaviour.”

Under the theme ‘Future Directions in Food Safety and Security’, the conference is hosting presentations from 105 speakers from across the world.