Key DM food safety initiatives and ISO 17020 recognition dominate plenary session
Initiatives taken by Dubai Municipality on food safety dominated the opening session of the 2012 Dubai International Food Safety Conference on February 21 at Al Mutaqa Hall of the Dubai International Convention & Exhibition Centre.
H.E. Eng Hussain Nasser Lootah, the Director General of Dubai Municipality, inaugurated the Conference, into its seventh year. Khalid Mohammed Sharif, Director of the Food Control Department and David Tharp of IAFP gave key speeches.
In his speech, Mr Sharif spoke on the programmes initiated by Dubai Municipality, adding that while they were important, much more needed to be accomplished. One of the programmes, Mr Sharif said, involved cooperation with the Dubai Health Authority, with the aim of controlling and tackling diseases. The programme, he said, made it possible to reduce the number of food poisoning cases to 70 for every 1,000 people.
In his speech, Mr Sharif also stressed on the importance of cooperation at the federal level and also at the GCC level when it came to implementing key programmes.
For IAFP, the conference represented the first time it was conducting a symposium on food safety, in association with Dubai Municipality. Tharp said that IAFP was proud to work to improve the broad appeal of the conference. “With these efforts, we can all benefit from a safer food supply, and we can help protect and improve the food that directly affects the safety,” Tharp said.
The opening session was also an occasion for Dubai Municipality to announce the singular honour it had received in the form of the Accreditation Certificate for ISO 17020.
It was the first time a government department in the region had received the qualification.
Later, Caroline Smith DeWaal, Food Safety Director at the Centre for Science in Public Interest (CSPI), USA, addressed the audience, discussing the topic, ‘The Future of Food Safety’.
“The issue of food safety is a concern for consumers around the world,” she said.
One of CSPI’s initiatives is the Safe Food International project (SPI), which is aimed at collecting and analysing outbreak reports in three world regions to raise global safety standards.
In DeWaal’s view, the key challenges the global food safety industry was currently facing included countries’ increasing reliance on food imports, as well as emerging pathogens, such as the one that, last year, caused the deadly E. coli outbreak in Germany.
In her address, DeWaal said she believed that the Hazard Analysis and Critical Control points (HACCP) framework, which incorporated a scientific approach to assess food safety standards, was the way forward to control food-borne illnesses.
However, it was paramount to carry out a thorough hazard analysis and institute controls for food safety hazards, such as active food-borne surveillance systems and rapid alert systems, she added.
Countries like the US, Japan, UAE and Saudi Arabia, among others, are heavily reliant on food imports to feed their population, DeWaal said. The key challenge, she argued, was in identifying a method which would allow governments to control food safety hazards in foods that are not even present in the domestic food chain.
DeWaal argued that the use of different sources of information and the role played by consumer organisations could significantly contribute to improving food safety standards.
Furthermore, non-governmental organisations, like WHO and FAO, needed to invest more in developing tools for food safety, she observed, although so far they have been often held back by shortage of funding.