A food safety agency has revealed that it conducted more than 103,000 inspection visits in 2023 in the United Arab Emirates.

The Abu Dhabi Agriculture and Food Safety Authority (ADAFSA) undertook 103,000 inspections during 2023, covering all food establishments within the country. They resulted in 3,391 violations and 27,895 warnings.

Abu Dhabi City accounted for more than half of the inspections conducted last year, with 63,690 visits, compared to almost 30,000 in Al Ain City and nearly 10,000 in the Al Dhafra region. Data was released for World Food Safety Day, celebrated on June 7 each year. 

Inspection process
Implementing an intelligent inspection system that uses artificial intelligence and GPS technology to locate food establishments has facilitated more than 490,000 inspection visits since its launch to carry out daily field tasks for food inspection.

The application schedules inspections, provides contact information for relevant stakeholders, allows access to the historical record of the establishment, enables photography and attachment of documents, and shares the final inspection report with the customer via email or phone.

Participation in the Zadna Rating application, launched by ADAFSA to share food establishment assessment results with the public, has reached more than 9,000 outlets in Abu Dhabi. The application allows consumers to view the results of sites based on their level of food safety. This has contributed to an increase in the compliance rate of food establishments by more than 73 percent, said ADAFSA.

ADAFSA has organized 85 training courses in food safety to build the capacity of its employees and enable them to carry out food control and inspection tasks. Since the launch of a training program to develop the skills of food handlers and build their knowledge of food safety requirements, more than 230,000 people in the sector have obtained certificates.

ADAFSA also represents the UAE at meetings of the Codex Coordinating Committee for Near East. During the first quarter of 2024, the authority participated in 11 Codex meetings.

Outbreak case study from Honduras
Meanwhile, a case study has been published showing how Honduras worked with the FAO/WHO International Food Safety Authorities Network (INFOSAN) and other agencies on a 2021 outbreak of Salmonella Braenderup in Galia melons.

The outbreak involved 348 cases from 12 European countries and the United Kingdom, including 68 hospitalizations. Four people were sick in the United States and two in Canada.

Honduras referred to the then-draft Codex Guidelines on the Management of Biological Foodborne Outbreaks for guidance on managing the situation.

Salmonella Braenderup matching the outbreak strain was detected on the surface of a washing tank in one of the facilities where galia melons were packed. One bird dropping in a melon washing tank in Choluteca, southern Honduras, was likely to blame, according to the case study.

María Sevilla, technical manager of agrifood safety at the National Plant, Animal Health and Food Safety service (SENASA) in Honduras, said they turned to the Codex guidelines on outbreaks for help.

“We used certain parts of the document to guide us in our analysis and risk assessment. In line with the Codex document, we mapped out the areas that would most likely be involved, we visited production sites and processing plants, and we took over 60 samples from water, equipment, surfaces, and soils,” she said.

Local authorities had 10 technical and laboratory staff, microbiologists, and epidemiologists in the field collecting samples. These were sent to the Honduran National Laboratory to see if Salmonella was present, and one came back positive.

However, Honduras could not genotype the positive sample as it lacked lab capacity. A university in the United States was willing to sequence the sample and see if it matched the strain causing illness in Europe. Logistical issues meant it took 60 days to receive positive results and for Honduras to notify INFOSAN that it had found the outbreak’s source.

Honduras can now carry out WGS with equipment from the Ministry of Health and is establishing a national network infrastructure with a training program implemented with help from the Pan-American Health Organization (PAHO).

Corrective actions had taken place at the implicated facility; by this point, the melon season had ended. SENASA oversaw the implementation of more than 30 remedial measures and actions to reassure trading partners that melon exports would be safe the following season. In January 2022, due to the outbreak, the European Commission increased official controls on imported Galia melons from Honduras. These checks were removed in early 2023.

(To sign up for a free subscription to Food Safety News, click here.)