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.

Name and shame arrives in United Arab Emirates

The Australians popularized the ‘name and shame’ approach to restaurant inspection disclosure (the Brits use ‘scores on doors,’ those in Toronto use pretty colors and Danes use smiley faces).

Mohammed al Reyaysa, the Abu Dhabi Food Control Authority’s spokesman, told The National today that restaurant operators promised to improve hygiene standards after the emirate’s food safety watchdog named 17 outlets that were temporarily closed because of violations, adding,

“When all efforts fail, we are left with no other option but to order the closure of the outlet that functions in utter disregard for public health and the law of the land. The health and safety of the consumer is the red line that should not be crossed in any circumstance.”

Of the 17 establishments that were closed this year, 15 were in Abu Dhabi city and two were in Al Gharbia.

They were allowed to reopen after the Food Control Authority was confident the violations had been corrected.

Mr al Reyaysa further noted the restaurants closed were “fraught with potential danger to the health of the consumers”, such as kitchens infested with insects, improper drainage systems and waste disposal, and mixing meat and fruits.

He also criticized restaurants that complain inspections are too rigorous.

“We have clear requirements and regulations that are based on global best practices. We are not less, and our consumers are not less, than those in Europe and America. We do not sacrifice the health of the consumer so establishments can make more money or avoid having their names mentioned in the media.”

Dubai restaurant requires signed disclaimer with purchase

What a cop-out.

After the tragic death of Nathan, 5, and his sister, Chelsea, 7, in connection with home-delivered Chinese food in June, the importance of food safety should have come into sharp focus for restaurateurs in Dubai.

On the off-chance that restaurant owners didn’t catch the news, the Dubai Municipality stepped up restaurant inspections and conducted a food safety awareness campaign under the banner "Food Safety is our Priority."

Establishments like Kempinski Hotel in Mall of the Emirates were given the opportunity to demonstrate to customers that food safety was indeed a priority.

Instead, as Gulf News reports,

“Hotel Kempinski in Mall of the Emirates is getting its customers to sign a disclaimer note stating that its restaurants would not be responsible for the quality of food once it is taken out of their premises.”

The disclaimer reads,

"Please note that the Kempinski Hotel Mall of the Emirates takes no responsibility whatsoever for any food or beverage bought from the hotel or any outlets of the hotel for personal consumption.

"This is due to the fact that the Kempinski Hotel Mall of the Emirates has no more control or any way of ascertaining the safety and hygienic condition of this food and beverage once outside the premises. Please sign the waiver below to indicate your acceptance of the terms stipulated.

"Otherwise the hotel is unable to permit any food or beverage to be purchased."

The establishment’s haughty and self-serving culture is absolutely disgusting and leaves me with very little faith in the safety of its food.

Another outlet, Calicut Paragon in Karama, invested their resources in stickers for take-out bags that advise consumers to eat their food within two hours of purchase—a step that suggests a shared responsibility for the safety of food and that I find a little more palatable. 

I agree with this guy:

"I think it is completely unethical to make customers sign disclaimers like that. It is good to safeguard the business, but not at the cost of displeasing customers," said Ronald D’Souza, operations manager at Sofra Worldwide – a firm that owns restaurant chains like Gelato, NaanPlus and Uno Chicago Grill.

"From your side, you have to ensure that quality and hygiene standards are maintained at the highest levels. But as we are in the business of food, there is an element of risk that you must take," D’Souza said.

Kempinski Hotel should step up to the plate and recognize that selling microbiologically safe food is a good way to protect your business, and showing a commitment to food safety is a good way to promote it.