SHARJAH // Poor personal hygiene by staff is the most common cause of food poisoning at restaurants, cafes, groceries and other businesses that handle food in the emirate, experts have said.
“When we look at causes and track the roots of the food poisoning outbreaks, we find the majority of common reasons goes to personal hygiene of staff,” said Dr Juan Taylor, director of training and research at TSI quality services, a UAE-based company specialised in food safety and hazards.
“Sick staff members and failure to wash hands before dealing with food causes contamination, which might lead to food poisoning. Food cleaning and temperature control can also cause food poisoning,” said Dr Taylor, who was speaking at the Sharjah Forum on Food Safety, which was held on Monday.
Omar Al Muhairi, head of the food control division at Sharjah Municipality, said the best solution to limit poisoning cases is to raise workers awareness about hygiene and the health code, and change their behaviour.
He said inspection teams regularly visit food outlets to make sure they are following the rules to prevent health issues.
This year, teams from the municipality confiscated and destroyed 42.3 tonnes of insect-infested and expired food from restaurants, cafes, supermarkets, grocery shops and other food establishments.
Sharjah Municipality takes reports of food poisoning very seriously, said Sheikha Dr Rasha Al Qassimi, deputy director general of Public Health and Central Laboratories at the municipality.
“We have teams from the municipality, Health ministry and the forensic lab of Sharjah police that visit reported establishments and take samples of the food to determine if the claims are correct. We take immediate action against violators.”
Businesses that are found to be violation of health and hygiene rules are shut down until they can be brought up to scratch.
The municipality launched a food safety programme in 2010 to improve standards based on the Good Hygiene Practices system (GHP) and Hazard Analysis Critical Control Point (HACCP)
The programme includes training and certification for staff at food outlets. According to Sheikha Al Qassimi, 72 per cent of food businesses in the emirate have at least one manager trained in the GHP system.