As part of the Weqaya healthy eating programme, the Abu Dhabi Food Control Authority (ADFCA), the Department of Health and the Abu Dhabi Quality and Conformity Council have recognised institutions, companies and outlets that contribute to a healthier society during the Weqaya food specification awards at the 8th edition of SIAL Middle East. Among the winners honoured during the ceremony were Sheikh Khalifa Medical City, Mafraq Hospital, Etihad Airways, Emirates Palace and the Abu Dhabi Country Club.
Dr. Omniyat Al Hajri, Director, Public Health Division at the Department of Health – Abu Dhabi said: "The Department of Health and ADFCA have honoured these F&B practitioners and outlets, recognising their efforts, collaborations and their roles in raising awareness around healthy nutrition and making Abu Dhabi a healthy society.
"As part of its efforts to raise public awareness of the need to adopt healthy lifestyles, the Department of Health, in cooperation with the Abu Dhabi Food Control Authority and the Abu Dhabi Quality and Conformity Council, is increasing the availability of healthy food options in Abu Dhabi. The department works with many food suppliers and retailers to develop a safety logo for the products to which healthy nutrition standards apply."
Working closely to Weqaya's specific requirements, Etihad Airways was recognised for designing, developing and delivering safe and consistent products.
Linda Celestino, VP of Guest Experience and Delivery for Etihad Airways said: "Etihad is the first airline in the region to support the Weqaya initiative and this is an incredible achievement for us. It required a lot of work from a culinary perspective and it demonstrates Etihad Airways' commitment to continuously innovate and improve.
"We always aspire to be a leader of every initiative, but to also demonstrate our commitment to a healthier UAE; something we are passionate about."
Additionally, Mafraq Hospital was awarded for adhering to Waqeda's specifications for producing healthy food in a hospital.
Mona Ali Al Hashemi, Senior Food and Beverage Officer for Mafraq Hospital said: "We are proud to be the first hospital to implement the programme, and it has helped us a great deal in keeping people healthy as well as feeling good about themselves.
"This award is a very innovative initiative from the Health Department to support us and encourage Abu Dhabi's citizens to stick to a healthy lifestyle."
Representing the Arabic word for prevention, the Weqaya program emphasises simple lifestyle changes such as providing healthy recipes for traditional Emirati food in order to reduce deaths related to cardiovascular disease.
Additionally, the Weqaya logo has been introduced to be attributed to food meeting a set criteria ensuring items have been prepared in a hygienic manner, as well as including healthy and nutritious ingredients.
Also taking place during the three-day event is the second edition of the Middle East Food Forum (MEFF) which added various initiatives to the line-up such as a forum with panel discussions, a networking evening, and a CEO roundtable.
HE. Dr. Mariam Hareb Al Suwaidi, Executive Director of Food Control, ADFCA said: "I am pleased to see decision-makers and influencers in the food and hospitality sector gathering at MEFF to discuss major challenges experienced by restaurants and tackling obstacles to the trade professionals.
"The bright ideas and innovative solutions of these discussions will contribute to overcoming challenges, and help improve this important sector affecting life conditions of individuals and our society."
Recognising excellence for in-service catering worldwide, the first day of the event saw the winners of the Mercury Awards announced in an evening ceremony. Under the supervision of a panel of independent experts, entries were judged in five categories with companies such as Perth Inflight Catering taking home the 'Airline Meal – Premium Class' award, and Lily O'Brien's winning the best 'Food Product – Sweet' category.
SIAL Middle East will run until 14 December at the Abu Dhabi National Exhibition Centre and returns with support from Host Sponsor: Abu Dhabi Chamber, Diamond Sponsor: Jenaan Investments, Silver Sponsors: Al Rawafed and Abu Dhabi Farmers' Services Centre, Bronze Sponsor: Mai Dubai and The Deep Seafood Company, and Halal Certification Sponsor: Emirates Authority for Standardization & Metrology.