Monday, October 29, 2012


The reputation for stringent punishment meted out to wrong doers in the Gulf countries is well known and probably the low crime rate reported there may be due to the fear instilled into the population regarding the consequences of violating the laws of these countries. When it comes to food safety, the authorities are supposed to be extra vigilant in preventing frauds and adulteration by the trade and the industry. Of course with a low technical base in food science, the quality and monitoring functions are invariably carried out by foreign technicians and experts, though the infrastructure facilities are excellent with heavy investments going for most modern instruments. As there are many people from Kerala working in United Arab Emirates (UAE), an idea seems have germinated among some of them to transplant the experience of Dubai Municipality to Kerala in food safety management. If recent reports are to be believed serious consideration is being given to such a tie-up for improving the Food safety management landscape in the state. It is good that the Food Commissioner in the state considers this new initiative as desirable and wants to go ahead with the collaborative project. Here are some details about the proposal.

The State Food Safety wing is looking to the Dubai Municipality Food Control Department to help it develop food safety manuals and food inspection checklists so that the food safety initiatives here can be made more scientific and standardised. The Dubai Municipality Food Control Department is already in talks with the Food Safety wing here on developing safety guidelines which are totally science-based and in drawing up a programme for the surveillance of food-borne illnesses.
A formal collaboration with the Dubai municipality for initiatives in improving food safety is also being contemplated, said Biju Prabhakar, Commissioner of Food Safety. "We thought of seeking the assistance of Dubai Municipality Food Control Department because even though their food safety initiative is fairly nascent, it is fully backed by science, is well-streamlined and has found considerable acceptance in the food industry too," Mr. Prabhakar said. Bobby Krishna, Senior Food Studies Officer in the Food Control Department of Dubai Municipality, told The Hindu here on Saturday that food safety was a global concern and had to be approached in a larger perspective, as a crucial component of public health, and a vital element of economy, especially with Kerala exploring its tourism potential in a big way. "Just as it happened in Kerala, in Dubai too, the food safety drive gained momentum in 2009 following the death of two young children, reportedly due to food poisoning. It gave us the impetus to drive hard — the licensing process, grading of food businesses, hygiene and safety standards, classification of food items, and the shelf life of each… everything was fully backed by evidence. We also invested quite a lot on educating those in the business about the basics of food safety, like hygienic food handling and preventing cross-contamination etc," Mr. Krishna said.

While one may consider this venture as some thing good for the state, it may be naive to place too much hope on the outcome of this endeavor. After all Dubai, for that matter the whole UAE has a some what weak food science basis, with many senior personnel trained in India or western countries. Most of the food products in the marker are packed, manufactured in other countries with quality standards and safety parameters well known internationally. But in Kerala the product basket is entirely different with most of them not having their standards of identity and quality and safety parameters not scientifically studied. According to one of the food safety experts who claims to be instrumental in helping Dubai Municipality to streamline its food quality management protocols, there is nothing India can learn from Dubai in this area though as a "social net working" it may have some value. It may be interesting to see how the proposed "twinning" will work out before passing any definitive judgement. Here is wishing good luck to Kerala's Food Safety Commissioner whose enthusiasm has to be admired!.


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