UAE: Speading awareness is crucial to food safety

By Dina Aboul Hosn, Staff Reporter, Gulf News

Dubai: The Sixth Dubai International Food Safety Conference will provide insight into food safety and help spread awareness of best practices at source countries which exported about six million tonnes of food to the UAE in 2010, Dubai Municipality’s Food Control Department revealed yesterday.

The municipality has completed the final touches to the conference, centred on the theme, ‘Food Safety in the Emerging Economies,’ to be held from February 28 to March 1, and has a participation of 100 speakers as well as industry and health professionals from 50 countries.

Addressing a press conference, Khalid Mohammad Sharif, Director of Food Control Department at the municipality, said the conference will provide insight into food safety and help professionals in the food industry sharpen their skills.

“The conference will deliver an array of programmes that include workshops, symposia, technical sessions and poster presentations that will feature more than 100 presenters,” he said, adding that more than 1,200 people had attended the event in 2010 and with each year, the participation is getting bigger and better.

“Foodborne illnesses have become a major public health concern in recent years,” Sharif said, adding that safe food is a responsibility of all those involved in food production until consumption, starting in the farm until the fork and this complex chain includes farmers, manufacturers, scientists, regulators and the consumers.

He explained that increasing awareness at source countries means fewer shipments would be rejected.

In reply to a question about halal food in the UAE, Sharif said the country’s strategy since 1986 is based on three main points to verify whether imported food is halal, which include the commitment of the source country, the food export documents and field inspection visits to food plants in other countries.

“In Australia, for example, there is an Islamic society that inspects and verifies food’s compliance with Sharia, and every halal certificate accompanying food from Australia is attested by this society,” he said.

Chosen speakers at the conference will bring insight into the problems and success stories from countries such as India, China, Brazil and Mexico by professionals from related bodies.