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Last year the UAE ranked 23 out of 109 countries on the Global Food Security Index, a strong showing. This year the country is looking to take food safety one step further. Announced at last October’s 10th Annual Dubai International Food Safety Conference, Dubai Municipality is introducing a new colour-coded system to rank the emirate’s F&B establishments according to their hygiene levels.

Led by Bobby Krishna – Principal Food Studies and Surveys Officer, Food Control Department at Dubai Municipality – over the course of 2016 the city’s eateries will be assessed and awarded a colour ranking by the Municipality’s 70 inspectors. A red card means that breaches have resulted in a temporary closure, while a green card highlights safe practices.

Bobby Krishna, the brains behind the plans, tells us more.

What do you think the top trends in hospitality food hygiene are for 2016 in the UAE?
2016 will see the introduction of a new inspection program where establishments are given a colour card rating, depending on their hygiene standards.

The lowest scoring premises will not have their rating displayed – is this a good idea? Do the public not have a right to know if a restaurant’s hygiene standards are substandard?
Colour cards are not just for display. They are a way of telling the management that they have a problem that needs to be rectified immediately. The colour of the card will determine how often and how early an inspector follows up – it puts more pressure on underperforming establishments to change their practices.

Don’t forget that there are business to business requirements as well. For example, hotel suppliers will have to have a green card in order to provide foods. This new card system will therefore have a deeper impact on the food chain; it’s not limited to the customer interface alone.

Self-regulation in food hygiene doesn’t always work – unless people are supervised corners can be cut. What will happen from a higher level to tackle this?

Transparency – that’s why we’re introducing the coloured card categorization system. We expect compliance to go up with more focused inspections. Penalties will be high for critical issues and there will be more emphasis on corrective action and follow up inspections.

What are the primary challenges to maintaining food hygiene standards
within hotels?

There are two major problems hotels are facing right now. Firstly, poor temperature control of high risk ready-to-eat foods. Secondly, in some establishments there is a lack of management commitment to food safety, leading to poor monitoring of practices.

What can be done to achieve the highest possible standards of food hygiene?
The industry here needs better detection of foodborne illness through surveillance systems. The faster we detect, the faster we can correct and prevent. Moreover, a swifter response would mean that better preventative systems can be built around a specific problem.

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