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| 12 April, 2018

Dubai residents, tourists might be able to scan their food by 2019

The Dubai Municipality had launched the Food Watch digital platform last November.

A couple chats while having lunch at a restaurant in the Dubai mall October 9, 2013.

A couple chats while having lunch at a restaurant in the Dubai mall October 9, 2013.

REUTERS/Ahmed Jadallah

Dubai - By early next year, Dubai residents and tourists can expect to scan their food via a smart platform to get full nutritional information and track their items from farm to fork.

The Dubai Municipality had launched the Food Watch digital platform last November to digitalise food safety and nutritional information of all food items.

While the smart platform, which will use a website and app, is still at the first phase of data collection, officials said some of its features are expected to go live to consumers by early next year.

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A customised app for each user will help consumers find restaurants that fit their personal dietary requirements, including vegan and vegetarian lifestyle options and avoid food with specific allergens.

Schools are also expected to benefit from the smart platform by July where parents will be able to monitor what their children eat at school and separate meal plans.

"The platform is a full system that will take a while to gather data for it to be inclusive. While it will be implemented in stages, we expect it to be functional by 2020 in digitally monitoring the food coming into eateries using smart technology and helping consumers make their own dietary choices," said Bobby Krishna, food safety specialist at the Dubai Municipality.

The smart platform, which was lately displayed at the Dubai International Governments Achievement Exhibition, will help consumers scan food items and restaurant menus to get full ingredients and nutritional information and avoid allergens in specific products.

Consumers can also visually track specific food item - with videos and other interactive material - from farm to fork. Meanwhile, authorities will also monitor food imported from the farm, shipment to eateries using real-time technology.

He added the digital platform will focus on essential food items like vegetables, fish and fruits that people consume on a daily basis.

The platform's app will be customised depending on the user's needs and optimise their choices using history search.

"The smart system will detect people's searches for the specific type of food and filter suitable options accordingly. For example, if a consumer wants to cut calories or reduce sodium, it will display low calorie/sodium options that will help the user pick the best restaurant that matches this need," said Krishna. By scanning a food item, the consumer will also be able to avoid certain allergens.

The groundbreaking platform for food safety and nutrition is expected to revolutionise Dubai's food industry as it connects all key players involved and facilitates data exchange between authorities, food businesses, service providers and consumers. "The purpose is to inform the public of their food source and options," said Krishna.

Maintaining food safety

Food establishments in Dubai will be registered on the smart platform that will help suppliers prove their credibility through providing the process of food manufacturing.

Sultan Al Tahir, head of food inspection section in the food safety department of the Dubai Municipality, said the customised platform will help food businesses identify and manage food safety risks more precisely, in addition to food inspectors who can track which restaurant to inspect more often.

"Food safety management systems have been largely paper-based and it costs food industry and the government enormous time and resources. Food Watch will transform this by building trust around digital, permanent and auditable record-keeping," he added.

"Every person-in-charge of food establishment will get smart applications to manage daily food safety check," said Taher.

Jehaina Al Ali, acting head of awareness and applied nutrition unit, said that by getting food businesses to declare ingredients online, any fraudulent claims would be prevented. "It is important to know that we are building a system that 'prevents' problems and is purely based on a transparency model. Every person entering the data on the platform will be responsible for what they add," said Al Ali.

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