World class food safety in a multi-lingual society a unique feat, Dr. Al Yousuf
Abu Dhabi, March 6, 2011: Abu Dhabi Food Control Authority (ADFCA) has participated with a paper on 'Building a Food Safety Culture in a Multi-cultural Society: The Role of Government' at the Global Food Safety Conference recently held in London under the aegis of Global Food Safety Initiative Foundation.
A significant annual event that brings together over 600 food safety specialists from over 40 countries around the world, the Global Food Safety Conference is a platform for discussion on top-of-mind issues and to bring knowledge and networking to food safety specialists from around the world.
Speaking at the conference, Dr. Mariam Harib Sultan Al Yousef, Executive Director, Policy & Regulation Division, ADFCA, said the multi-lingual composition of food handlers in the Emirate of Abu Dhabi presented a unique and rather difficult challenge to the Authority. "Around 80% of food handlers do not speak any of the official languages like Arabic or English, a fact made all the more complex by the low levels of literacy among them. The Authority sought to and successfully managed these hurdles by designing Essential Food Safety Training program for the food handlers that includes multi-lingual training (eight languages) as well as new pictorial examinations," she explained. The pictorial examinations have been designed by psychologists to overcome both language and literacy problems and this new concept was enthusiastically received by delegates at the Conference," she disclosed.
Dr. Al Yousef pointed out that 86% of food handlers (over 39,000) in the emirate had already undergone the mandatory training program, which is phased over two years beginning from 2008. "The training program focused on four essential areas, namely, cross contamination, cooking, cleaning and chilling. Drawing more on practice than theory, the Authority adopted an internationally benchmarked syllabus for the purpose," she added.
"Building on the success of the essential food safety training program a new initiative was launched in 2010. This focuses on improving the management of food safety in catering businesses. This is an ambitious program to ensure that even the smallest restaurant can, with appropriate guidance and support from ADFCA, implement a food safety system that meets the international HACCP standard." Dr. Al Yousuf explained.
Moving on to the subject of food safety at four and five star hotels in Abu Dhabi, which is germane to the growth of international tourism in the emirate, Dr. Al Yousef stressed they follow the best food safety standards in the world. "Mandated to adhere to HACCP requirements since 2001, hotels and manufactures are subjected to regular inspections to ensure compliance," she told, adding that ADFCA is now trying to replicate the success in this segment in small businesses as well.
"ADFCA has partnered with the industry to establish a new food safety culture in the emirate. We try to continually communicate with all players in the industry on the best practices and the legal and other requirements, while leaving no stone unturned in rigorous enforcement of the rules and regulations governing the sector. The result is the emergence of a food safety culture that is comparable to the best in the world. It is worth noting that it was achieved in a multi-cultural setting in which 150 languages are spoken," she commented.