COVID-19 protocol: How Dubai ensures food safety amid pandemic

Dubai Municipality reports 90% compliance from food establishments

A worker carries food at a restaurant after Dubai has for the first time allowed restaurants to operate freely during fasting hours of Ramadan in Dubai, United Arab Emirates May 3, 2021.

A worker carries food at a restaurant after Dubai has for the first time allowed restaurants to operate freely during fasting hours of Ramadan in Dubai, United Arab Emirates May 3, 2021.

REUTERS/Abdel Hadi Ramahi

Dubai Municipality has inspected over 69,000 food establishments for safety and adherence to Covid-19 protocols since the beginning of this year.

According to Sultan Al Taher, director of the Food Safety Department at Dubai Municipality, the number of establishments inspected this year was much higher than the annual average of 45,000 inspections conducted by the authority every year.

“Municipality inspected a higher number of establishments to ensure Covid-19 safety precautions are being adhered to. Dubai Municipality has ramped up inspections of food outlets,” Al Taher told Khaleej Times. A total of 69,025 outlets have been inspected since the beginning of this year. “By the end of December, we would’ve inspected close to 70,000 outlets or more,” said the official.

“We have regular food safety checklists, and we also ensure pandemic-related precautions are followed,” he explained. Moreover, the general compliance rate of the food establishments that underwent inspections stood at 90 per cent, he added.

Food establishments include all outlets related to the food sector, including restaurants, cafeterias, supermarkets, food kiosks, etc. Defaulting outlets face temporary closures, and, in some cases, outlets perform corrective actions in one-day.

In the case of critical or high-risk violations, the maximum closure time imposed on the food establishments is one week. “The response time from the health inspectors are fast and efficient,” Al Taher added.


What are common mistakes made by food outlets?

According to Al Taher, common mistakes made by food outlets maintaining personal hygiene and lack of training among staff, for example. “In some cases, the establishments are not clean, or there is a low level of personal hygiene,” he added. Most of the violations committed are minor errors, and some are repetitive.

The official also said the Municipality would continue to remain cautious and maintain high standards of cleanliness in a food establishment in the coming year. “We will continue to monitor food establishments to ensure they adhere to Covid-19 protocols in the coming year,” explained Al Taher.

Municipality action plan

Other than routine inspections, examiners also responded to customer tip-offs placed by the general public. “We had several surprise checks even during the weekends, emergencies, and public holidays, for example,” Al Taher said.

Dubai Municipality receives several complaints from customers on the 800900 helplines. “We receive an average f 15 complaints per day. However, the number of calls about Covid-19 have reduced since July this year,” he added. “We do get several calls that are unrelated to us as well,” said Al Taher.

The director of the food safety department said it is not uncommon for residents to call and complain about the ‘food being too hot or spicy’ or ‘delivery guys getting the wrong order or them being late, for example.


Dubai Municipality recent initiatives

Dubai Municipality launched the new rating system following the International Food Safety Conference. Submissions for Dubai Star will begin in early January and end on April 30, 2022. Winners will be announced at the next session of the food safety conference, which will be held in November 2022.

The system is a global initiative through which restaurants will be encouraged to implement sustainable practices to produce safe, healthy, high-quality food. The best-rated restaurants will be honoured annually, said Al Taher.

“Only restaurants that have achieved an A-grade rating for three years in a row can apply for Dubai Star,” he explained.

Dubai Municipality also launched a set of unique initiatives in food safety and nutrition such as the Green Path, Enhancing Knowledge Efficiency of Food Handlers, and Enhancing Food Transport Systems and Logistics Services through integration with RTA.

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