Food Poisoning Cases Drive Dubai to Raise Safety Awareness

Source of Article:  http://www.khaleejtimes.com/DisplayArticle08.asp?xfile=data/theuae/2009/August/theuae_August127.xml&section=theuae

Sajila Saseendran

6 August 2009

DUBAI — Dubai is gearing up for its biggest-ever food safety awareness campaign after a spate of 60 cases of food poisoning, including high-profile deaths, this year.

The emirate’s civic body also has launched a programme upgrading food safety and targeting the poorest performing eateries after closing 65 by the end of July for violating safetyregulations.

The details of the campaign and the violations registered have been issued amid growing concern over food safety after the death of at least three Dubai children due to suspected food poisoning in recent months.

The death of siblings Nathan and Chelsea D’Souza, who had eaten a takeaway meal from a restaurant in June, and that of two-and-a-half-year-old Rishab Pranav, who died after consuming reheated home-cooked food in July, had deeply touched the public and alerted officials.

Apart from the toddler’s death, the fact that 40 of the reported cases of suspected food poisoning were believed to be due to homemade food has prompted Dubai Municipality to choose housewives as one of the major target groups of the campaign.

In tandem with the food safety awareness programmes for the food outlets, teams of officials from the Food Control Department of the Municipality will also address schools, universities, shoppers and the general public.

Director of the department, Khalid Sherif Al Awadhi, said the municipality has the ambitious plan of addressing every sector of the community to spread the message of “shared responsibility” in ensuring food safety.

“We are launching our biggest-ever awareness campaign during Ramadan. After investigating the reported cases of food poisoning we have found that many people are not aware of the proper ways to deal with food items. So, we have included different categories of the community for the awareness programme.”

Apart from the traditional methods of distributing brochures and conducting seminars and lectures, the food control department is also going high-tech  to reach out to the wider section of the community, especially the youth.

SMS alerts, blogs, and interactive sessions through social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter are also part of the campaign which will use a cartoon character named “Mr. Safe” as the civic body’s representative spreading the message of food safety.

Also for the first time, the municipality has teamed up with a group of food industry representatives to formulate the messages and structure of the awareness drive.

The official said the food control section evaluates the severity and extent of a violation before deciding to close an eatery, which is usually the last resort.

“Violations that directly cause food-borne illnesses will result in automatic failure of inspections and immediate closing of the establishment or other enforcement actions.”

All but one of the outlets that were closed  have reopened after rectifying problems. Lotus Garden Restaurant in Al Ghusais remains closed following the deaths  of the D’ Souza siblings and will not reopen while a court inquiry is pending

 

 

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