On Feb. 3, the Federal National Council of the United Arab Emirates (UAE) is scheduled to take up a tough new food safety law, including jail time and fines, for anyone found guilty of endangering food safety. The council is the UAE’s highest legislative body. The 21-article bill would regulate food production both inside the country and from imports. “The draft law deals with food safety of both man and animal and it will tighten control on the food supply chain by using international best practices,” said Rashid Al Shuraiqi, chairman of the committee that did the drafting. He said the committee did a thorough local and international reference study in drafting the bill that he expected will fill many existing loopholes. Ahead of the drafting work, the UAE declared food safety a top government priority. The goal is to improve the quality and safety of food while reducing incidents of foodborne illness among the country’s 10 million residents. Under the new law, a conviction for endangering food safety would carrying a jail term of up to 3 years and a fine of up to 2 million Emirati Dirham (Dh), which translates into about $544,000 in U.S. dollars. Key provisions of the new law include:

  • No food may be imported without first obtaining the approval of the Ministry of Environment and Water.
  • No false or incorrect food labels will be permitted, with fines ranging from Dh 10,000 to Dh 100,000.
  • No pork or alcohol products or ingredients are permitted without permission, and anyone who does may be subject to one month in jail and fines of up to Dh 500,000.

About 80 percent of the food consumed in the UAE is imported. Dealers of food confiscated under the new law would also face fines of Dh 100,000 to Dh 300,000, plus up to two years in jail. If the council adopts the proposed food safety bill, it would then go to UAE President Khalifa Bin Zayed Al Nahyan for his final endorsement.