Though it is currently optional, certifying their food claims will be made mandatory for these outlets in the next phase of the initiative, officials said after presenting the logo to 13 food outlets that complied with the guidelines in the pilot phase.
Once the rule is made mandatory, food bearing claims that mislead customers will be taken off the menus and action will be taken against violators depending on the gravity of the issue.
“We don’t want anyone to make false claims about healthy food,” said Khalid Mohammad Sharif Al Awadi, the assistant director general of Dubai Municipality for Health, Safety and Environment Control.
He said there are existing rules and systems in place for verifying health and nutritional claims in packaged food. “Now we are focusing on ready-to-eat food.”
Noura Al Shamsi, head of the Food Permits and Applied Nutrition Section that issues the Healthy Food Logo, said the initiative rolled out in collaboration with the Dubai Health Authority supports Dubai’s aim to build a healthy and happy society.
Jehaina Al Ali, food studies and planning officer at the section, said the eateries are certified as healthy either for the full menu or for part menu. In the latter case, they can display the Healthy Food Logo only against the certified recipes.
“At least 20 per cent of the menu must be validated as healthy for securing the certification for the full menu of the food outlet. For part menu, we are now insisting for validation of health claims in at least two main courses.”
Al Awadi said the plan is to make it mandatory for food outlets to have at least 50 per cent of their menu as healthy food to be certified as a healthy eatery in two years.
He said guidelines have emphasised that food businesses cannot increase prices in the name of securing the logo for their recipes from the municipality.
Al Ali added that eateries can hike the prices only if there is any general hike in all their menu items and they need to justify the reason for that also.
Bobby Krishna, principal food safety inspector, noted that many small restaurants may not know they have some healthy menu and hence do not advertise that. “We need to make sure that we identify them so that every spectrum of the society gets a chance to make healthier food choices.”
Nathalie Haddad, CEO of Nathalie’s Coffee and Kitchen and founder of Right Bite Nutrition and Catering Services, both of the first two eateries to receive the Healthy Food certificate for the full menu category, said the initiative will help increase awareness on healthy eating and boost customers’ confidence in the healthy menus offered by eateries.
BOX: What does the logo mean?
With the Healthy Food Logo launched by Dubai Municipality, diners in Dubai can understand that the health and nutritional claims over the food they are consuming have been verified by authorities.
Any advertisement or claim about low calorie content, use of low fat/sugar/sodium in recipe, that of gluten-free grains or genetically modified organisms etc. will have to be verified by the Permits and Applied Nutrition Section of the Food Safety Department. The logo, hence, tells diners that the food really contains less sugar, less fat or less sodium, for example.
“If you are eating something with any of these claims, and you see the Healthy Food Logo against the recipe in the menu, you can be assured that we have verified that claim,” Jehaina Al Ali, food studies and planning officer at the section told Gulf News.
Eateries that have secured the Healthy Food certification as part of the Eat Healthy Live Healthy initiative of the municipality can display the logo for their full menu. However, eateries that have been certified for their part menu can use the Healthy Food Logo only against the recipes that have been validated as healthy by the municipality.
By Sajila Saseendran Senior Reporter
Gulf News 2017. All rights reserved.