|15 October, 2017

‘Happiness inspection’ enhances food safety in Dubai without fines

450 food establishments with lowest ratings improve standards with technical support from municipality

Image used for illustrative purposes. A worker transports mooncakes at a workshop of a foodstuff processing factory in Changzhi, north China's Shanxi province, August 30, 2007. REUTERS/Stringer

Image used for illustrative purposes. A worker transports mooncakes at a workshop of a foodstuff processing factory in Changzhi, north China's Shanxi province, August 30, 2007. REUTERS/Stringer

What fines and warnings could not do is proving possible with a happiness initiative — even when it comes to improving food safety standards!

That is the success story that Dubai Municipality’s Food Safety Department shared on Sunday.

A “Happiness Inspection” initiative aimed at hundreds of Dubai eateries that earlier mustered only the lowest food safety and hygiene standards has helped improve their performance significantly, so much so that some of them even received excellent rating, the civic body said in a press release.

“Of the 17,000 food establishments in the emirate such as restaurants, cafeterias, catering establishments, popular kitchens, retail outlets, and supermarkets, conducting a variety of activities at different locations, we selected 450 establishments, whose evaluation rating was low in the area of food safety for a long period,” said Sultan Ali Al Tahir, head of the food inspection section.

He said the inspection reports of these establishments had indicated that they continued to repeat violations despite warnings and fines.

The municipality then created a special system for this category of food outlets, urging them to bring about a radical change in their work, he said.

“The initiative focused on supporting these institutions technically, and to ensure the continuity of the development of the hygiene and technical levels through the application of global best practices for food safety and strengthen the concept of self-control.”

The municipality even suspended its penalties during the training and preparation period to encourage the establishments to implement change, said Al Tahir.

The Happiness Inspection team relied on a completely new approach, which included effective communication with the owners, managers and hygiene supervisors. The team had direct meetings with them in the presence of all workers in the establishment.

The team issued a questionnaire on the root causes that led to the low hygiene standards in the establishments concerned and supported them to develop practical and scientific plans to help enhance their hygiene and technical levels.

“We also educated and trained food-handling workers on the best global practices in food hygiene and safety.”

The inspections and follow-up visits at this stage were carried out without imposing fines.

This somehow helped the owners to fulfil their obligations to modify the situation and face all the obstacles and challenges related to food safety and bring in a comprehensive change in the establishment from the technical aspects, and the practices of those working in the preparation and serving of food according to the rules and regulations.

Al Tahir pointed out that the results of the implementation of the initiative in its first phase were very impressive and positive. “As a result of the efforts, 273 of the targeted institutions achieved a rate of 91 per cent development and comprehensive change than their previous performances. They also received excellent and very good rating and their self-control was strengthened through the approved hygiene supervisor during the third quarter of this year,” he said.

“In addition, 300 new establishments were covered by inspection visits. Work is under way to finalise their development according to the work team plan, and by surveying the customers in the targeted outlets,” said Al Tahir.

He explained that the Happiness Inspection initiative launched in the second quarter of this year, will continue after the end of the first phase by the end of this year, and start the second phase early next year. It will target other establishments selected through the smart inspection system, as the strategy of the Food Safety Department is to ultimately raise the food safety assessment rating in all establishments operating in the emirate to the highest grade.

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