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UAE to Launch Food Surveillance System

The UAE expects to enact a national surveillance system to track foodborne illness and draw all food safety activities under one unified law by the end of the year.

According to the local Khaleej Times, the nation’s top food safety body is working on legislation that will boost food safety in all the emirates. “The law will bring under one umbrella all technical aspects and procedures related to the production, import, storage, transportation, and supply of food products,” the paper reported.

The new proposal was announced at the close of the 5th Annual Dubai International Food Safety Conference this week.

Director of Food Control at Dubai Municipality Khalid Mohammed Sharif Al Awadhi said the country is working to better coordinate food safety efforts with local public health officials to draft guidelines for reporting foodborne illness. The goal is to create a national database.

“Without proper data, we cannot identify the reasons for such cases and form our prevention plan,” Al Awadhi told the conference attendees.

The recent food safety conference was organized by the Food Control Department of Dubai Municipality with the support of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations, and the International Association for Food Protection (IAFP), as well as the UAE Ministry of Environment and Water, Abu Dhabi Food Control Authority and the UAE University.

Experts attending the conference engaged in workshops to share best practices in foodborne illness surveillance and investigation.

The UAE government has come under pressure after a slew of high-profile food poisonings. In the fall a four-year-old girl lost her life after eating at a restaurant in Sharjah and last summer two young children died after eating take-out food in Dubai.

In November, public health authorities in Dubai led a crackdown on food safety violators, closing almost 70 food establishments and handing out may penalties including fines and jail sentences.

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