The Dubai’s infrastructure marvels are often quoted in travel books around the world, but equally impressive is the emirate’s bedrock of regulation and enforcement covering some critical sectors. Take the Dubai Food Code, for example. Introduced in the public domain in April, the Code has set about demystifying the emirate’s guiding principles on food safety and articulating the specifics that all food establishments operating in Dubai need to follow.
As would be expected, the Code, the result of years of sustained contemplation, study and action, talks at length about temperature control and on how to prevent temperature abuse of food. It also talks of the importance of proper ventilation and indoor air quality in ensuring food safety.
If district cooling operators have nightmares about a legionella outbreak through ill-maintained cooling towers, so do hygiene managers at hotels and restaurants about microbial growth. Theirs is a constant vigilance to arrest the multiplication of micro-organisms in meat, seafood and cut fruit, to name three.
The extent of their concern, bordering on paranoia, as it well ought to be, came to light at the recently concluded fourth edition of the Food Chain conference in Dubai. At the same time, it was obvious at the conference that while hygiene managers might be vigilant, the same could not be said of all the links in the cold chain. The stakeholders at the conference acknowledged that temperature abuse did occur at various stages, be it while storing food in warehouses, loading or unloading them or while transporting them over short or long distances. Much in the same way, temperature abuse occurred at convenience stores, where cost-conscious owners instructed their personnel to switch the refrigeration off late in the night, leading to contamination of frozen meat, say.
While the situations call for the need for a better food safety culture and education among all food handlers, there is an urgent need for all-encompassing cold chain legislation, as the next logical step to releasing the Code. And as a further step, there is a need for empowering food safety inspectors with enhanced knowledge on the behaviour of refrigeration equipment, so they are able to enforce the rules and to better spot and book offenders. In transport refrigeration, for instance, enlightened inspectors would be quickly able to zero in on stacking malpractices, which prevent adequate air flow to the entire consignment, leading to spot contamination. Nothing could be scarier than a false sense of security that the meat (say) being transported is in pristine condition when it clearly is not.
Dubai’s strength has been in overcoming the common tendency of half-measures, and in food safety, as well, the emirate will surely not rest till it pins down even the prospect of violations.
– B Surendar