School food safety has improved, Dubai food inspectors say

The quality and safety of school meals has greatly improved in recent years, say Dubai Municipality food inspectors.

The authority had focused on improving the standards of suppliers and catering companies, and said it was pleased with the results.“Suppliers know that if they do not comply with the regulations we will not give them a licence to supply to schools,” said Sultan Al Taher, head of food inspection at Dubai Municipality.

“But overall I’m happy with how they have responded to meeting our requirements, and the level is much better than it was 15 to 20 years ago.”

He said food-safety standards would not be compromised despite Dubai’s expansion in recent years, and its continued growth as it geared up to host Expo 2020.

Ayesha Al Mukhayat, senior food health officer at the municipality, said there had been a significant improvement in standards at Dubai schools.

“Our focus is on the suppliers of food products to schools in the emirate,” said Ms Al Mukhayat. “We work with them to make sure they meet our standards, particularly in how they store hot and cold foods.”

The principal food-inspection officer at the municipality, Bobby Krishna, said: “We want to encourage healthier eating in schools but that comes with its own challenges in terms of keeping food safe.

“Things like fresh fruit and vegetables are healthy but they must also be consumed sooner. In general, processed foods can keep longer because they are cooked but raw fruit and vegetables should be eaten sooner.”

Dubai has an egg problem

Dubai apparently has an egg problem too, as authorities are urging residents to take extra precautions when ordering high-risk food from restaurants, especially the many egg-based dishes that are not fully cooked.

Raw_eggSultan Al Tahir, head of food inspection section, emphasized that eggs should be stored in refrigerators all along the food chain from the farm until they are cooked.

“In the kitchen, eggs should be broken carefully in a segregated area to prevent contamination of other ready to eat food. Egg products should be cooked well to a minimum temperature of 75 degrees Celsius as per our regulations. Eggs that are stored at ambient temperatures should not be consumed and our inspectors have been instructed to discard eggs that have not been stored or cooked properly,” he said.

Market it: Dubai guidelines will help ensure better food safety

Gulf News writes in an editorial that a preponderance in a section of society neccesitates a new approach to governance. This progressive attitude is reflected in the introduction of a new Food Safety Code by the Dubai Municipality in view of the increasing numbers of restaurants, food outlets, imports and exports of food items and food transport firms in the emirate.

Dubai offers a fantastic density of eating out options with new food outlets opening with a happy regularity to suit every kind of budget. powell_krishna_feb_12What converts this boom into an undisputed advantage for consumers are strict, and unambiguous, rules and regulations that ensure every one of the food outlets adheres to the standards laid down by the authorities. The new guidelines are a particularly laudatory move as they were drafted in view of the grey areas that existed in safety inspections and food handling previously.

From production, transport to preparation and consumption, the new Food Code demands the highest standards of hygiene and handling across the board. For a consumer, this is the best deal for a meal.


Dubai eateries to get award for best food safety practices

Enhancing food safety requires a mixture of carrots and sticks, persuasion and punishment.

Reinforcing positive behavior helps too.

Dubai Municipality has recently established an award for eateries that excel in measures and practices to ensure food safety, informed Khalid Shareef, Director, food Control department at the civic body.

“This award, we think, is first of its kind in the region. We aim to upgrade the levels of food safety prevailing in the establishments by creating an opportunity for healthy competition,” he further said.

Indian state eyes Dubai model to ensure food safety

My friend Bobby Krishna (right, pretty much as shown), senior food studies officer in the food control department of Dubai Municipality, is making inroads in india.

The Hindu reports the Kerala State Food Safety wing is looking to the Dubai Municipality food control department to help it develop food safety manuals and food inspection checklists so that the food safety initiatives here can be made more scientific and standardized.

A formal collaboration with the Dubai municipality for initiatives in improving food safety is also being contemplated, said Biju Prabhakar, commissioner of food safety, adding, “We thought of seeking the assistance of Dubai Municipality Food Control Department because even though their food safety initiative is fairly nascent, it is fully backed by science, is well-streamlined and has found considerable acceptance in the food industry too.”

Krishna told The Hindu here on Saturday that food safety was a global concern and had to be approached in a larger perspective, as a crucial component of public health, and a vital element of economy, especially with Kerala exploring its tourism potential in a big way.

“Just as it happened in Kerala, in Dubai too, the food safety drive gained momentum in 2009 following the death of two young children, reportedly due to food poisoning. It gave us the impetus to drive hard — the licensing process, grading of food businesses, hygiene and safety standards, classification of food items, and the shelf life of each… everything was fully backed by evidence. We also invested quite a lot on educating those in the business about the basics of food safety, like hygienic food handling and preventing cross-contamination etc,” Mr. Krishna said.

The first step in having a streamlined food safety management system is in getting everyone in the food business to take licences/registrations. There has to be a grading system for hotels/ eateries so that each works within its scope.

“You need to develop a good food safety team, which includes food safety experts, risk assessors, including biochemistry and microbiology experts, epidemiologists, all backed with international food safety resources. Food inspectors have to undergo rigorous training and follow standard procedure,” he said.

As for street vendors, he suggested that the government create ‘safe zones’ in various parts of the city where all safe processes and infrastructure for producing safe food could be provided by the government. Vendors could be given subsidy for utilising these resources.

The recent initiative of the Dubai municipality, called the Person-in-Charge (PIC) programme — an initiative that Kerala could emulate — was expected to make Dubai attain world-class standards in food safety.

Food safety improvements in Dubai; UAE is more than Sex and the City II

I didn’t know Chapman knew Arabic.

But there he was, goofy pic and all (right, exactly as shown, any of them), in the Daily Bite at the Dubai food safety conference, saying something about how wonderful it all was.

In real news, Dubai is joining PulseNet International, which monitors foodborne bacteria through their DNA fingerprints.

Dr Peter Gerner-Smidt, a speaker at the conference and a member of the PulseNet International Steering Committee said the network offers real time surveillance resulting in early detection and warnings.

“If you routinely use PulseNet to detect outbreaks then you will detect many more outbreaks and you will also be able to solve them to derive what the causes are and using that information you can make food much safer,” he told Khaleej Times. “In Dubai, you import most of your foods. So I would think that a lot of the problems you are going to detect here will be present in other places in the world. So they will need to work with the PulseNet Middle East and Pulse Net International to make the investigation ?international.

Bobby ”Bobby” Krishna (pretty much as shown, left) Dubai’s Senior Food Studies and Surveys Officer said Dubai Municipality would be working in association with its counterpart in Abu Dhabi and the health authorities in both the emirates for becoming active partners in the network.

Kannangot Pallikkal Yousuf did not have a 12th grade pass certificate when he arrived in Dubai 13 years ago.

He found a job as a delivery boy with a supermarket under the Talal Group. In seven years, he climbed the ranks to become salesman, cashier and then to a hygiene supervisor. After six years’ of experience in that post, Yousuf has now earned a special recognition for his knowledge in food safety and hygiene matters, thanks to the Dubai Municipality’s Person-in-Charge (PIC) programme that mandates a food safety manager in every food outlet in Dubai.

Yousuf is now a PIC, supervising the hygiene and food safety matters in the Talal Supermarket in Deira YB Road.

The story of this 31-year-old Indian expatriate from Kerala is a classic example of how the municipality’s Food Control Department is revolutionising food safety in Dubai eateries by ensuring trained and certified personnel as food safety managers in each food outlet.

And there’s Chapman again PICs, restaurant and hotel managers and chefs will attend a workshop Thursday to enhance their skills in managing food facilities so that employees are trained on processes with validated hazard control. The workshop titled “Person in Charge-Plan and Control of Food safety in Retail Food Operations” is being organized as a post-event session of the 7th Dubai International Food Safety Conference that concluded on Wednesday.

Dr. O Peter Snyder, founder and president of Hospitality Institute of Technology and Management in Minnesota and Dr. Ben Chapman, an assistant professor and food safety extension specialist at North Carolina State University will conduct the workshop at the Dubai International Convention and Exhibition Centre.

And while I left before the closing day of the 7th Dubai International Food Safety conference, which apparently hosted a “cream of experts in the field of food safety,” because I had already been there for 12 days, which was the longest I’d been away from wife and child – ever. Chapman and I hung out by the pool and e-mailed each other about future research, but on my last night, the wind was so strong it impacted the wireless and we returned to our respective rooms. See you in a few more years. Attendance is not a criteria for teaching, research or extension. Performance is.

Happy birthday, Pete.

Do people in Dubai know who Tim Horton was? And does it matter? Shopping for food safely in Emirates

Upon arriving in Abu Dhabi, I did what I always do when temporarily unbound from the responsibilities of family and out on the prowl: I had a nap; and then went grocery shopping.

The Hypermarket is next door to the hotel, so I wandered around at 11 p.m. The place was bustling with young families, singles, and endless staff obsessed with cleaning. That seemed like a good sign.

I collected the usual basics for before- and after-meal snacking: berry juice, yogurt, Greek salad, tabbouleh, whole grain bread, Dairy Milk chocolate, and cheese (in North America it’s Extra-Old cheddar, in Australia it’s Extra Tasty, in the United Arab Emirates it’s Extra Mature).

Driving from Dubai to Abu Dhabi was eerily similar to driving from Tucson to Scottsdale, although Arizona has more hilly bits. Desert, gas stations, concrete monuments and groovy architecture.

Tim Hortons?

The venerable Canadian coffee and doughnut shop was everywhere. Can’t find one in Australia, can’t find one in the southern U.S., but they’re everywhere in UAE after opening their Dubai outlet in Sept. 2011. A local paper noted at the time, Tim Hortons is to Canadians what the falcon is to the UAE; an intrinsic part of the culture and an inescapable symbol of Canadian life.

I tried to explain to the driver who Tim Horton was. That didn’t go so well.

Tim Horton was a bruising (ice hockey) defenseman who won 4 Stanley Cups with the Toronto Maple Leafs in the 1960s. Born in 1930 in Cochrance, Ontario, Horton spent his formative years playing in mining communities surrounding Sudbury, Ontario (that’s in Canada; my sister and her family live up there). He got noticed by the Leafs organization and moved to Toronto when he was 17-years-old. He died in a car accident in 1974 after a 24-year National hockey League career?. Horton had a reputation for enveloping players who were fighting him in a crushing bear hug (sorta like my uncle, who played small-town hockey in Northern Ontario). Boston Bruins winger Derek Sanderson once bit Horton during a fight; years later, Horton’s widow, Lori, still wondered why. "Well," Sanderson replied, "I felt one rib go, and I felt another rib go, so I just had—to, well, get out of there!” ?

Tim Hortons Inc. was founded in 1964 in Hamilton, Ontario by Canadian hockey player Tim Horton. In 1967 Horton partnered with investor Ron Joyce, who quickly took over operations and expanded the chain into a multi-million dollar franchise. There are almost 3,000 Tim Hortons in Canada, and another 50 in the U.S. The chain accounted for 22.6 per cent of all fast food industry revenues in Canada in 2005. Canada has more per-capita ratio of doughnut shops than any other country. In Canada, owning a Tim Hortons is like owning a license to print money (that’s the Tim Hortons sign in Cookstown, Ontario, north of Toronto, where my father is from)..

I never bought Tim Hortons coffee – I can make better stuff at home. But I will track down an UAE outlet and savor the nostalgia of a still-warm, sugar- encrusted apple fritter. Maybe even some Timbits – doughnut holes – just like the ones used to bribe my girls with to get to 6 a.m. hockey practices. I bribe 3-year-old Sorenne to her 7 a.m. swimming class in Brisbane with fresh melon. Different climate, different motivations.

UAE restaurants braced for inspectors

The first 150 graduates of a new municipality training programme are ready to take on the task of ensuring their restaurants are safe and clean.

Under Dubai Municipality’s Person in Charge (PIC) program, food outlets will be expected to take the initiative to ensure they meet safety standards rather than relying on the municipality’s Food Control department to police them.

The PIC idea was part of a plan to raise restaurant standards and lower the number of food poisoning cases in Dubai. That plan gained momentum in August 2009 after the deaths of two young siblings who ate spoiled takeaway food in Al Qusais.

By the end of this year, every restaurant and cafeteria in the emirate is expected to have a trained PIC.

Those who successfully complete the PIC exam act as liaison between the premises and the municipality. Their job is to ensure that municipal policies are carried out correctly at all times by anyone handling food.

Yuck factor: leafy greens loaded with E. coli in Dubai

The National reports that every sample of rocket salad leaves tested from 64 shops in Dubai and Sharjah was contaminated with high levels of potentially deadly E. coli bacteria, researchers have found.

The leaves – also called jarjeer, or arugula – came from outlets ranging from small stores to large supermarket chains. Millions of faecal coliform cells and hundreds of thousands of E. coli bacteria were found in samples of one gram, about the size of a small leaf.

The samples were analysed by Dr Dennis Russell, a researcher at the American University of Sharjah. After washing the leaves three times he still found hundreds of thousands of viable faecal coliform microorganisms per gram, and thousands of E. coli bacteria.

Washing with diluted chlorine bleach did not remove the bacteria.

Dr Russell’s research is published in the current issue of the Egyptian Academic Journal of Biological Sciences.

Dr Tibor Pal, a professor of microbiology and immunology at United Arab Emirates University, said that although E. coli was not always harmful, high levels indicated faecal contamination and risk of other serious diseases.

Dr Russell said he had been unable to determine where the rocket leaves had been grown – whether they were from UAE farms or imported – but he said he suspected they all came from the same farm or a group of farms that had used liquified raw faeces for fertiliser rather than compost soil.

72-year-old Brit stricken with E. coli in Dubai

U.K. pensioner Dorothy Wilson (right, photo from Chronicle Live) had to wait four weeks before medics identified the source of her ailment as E.coli in Dubai.

Chronicle Live reports that after medics repeatedly missed the bug, the pensioner had to be moved to a private hospital so she could get the treatment to save her life.

Doctors at the first hospital, where she had spent almost a month, in the United Arab Emirates, couldn’t work out what was wrong with her.

Charles Wilson, 75, has also thanked the private medics who came to their rescue when others had failed.