Highfield chairman Richard Sprenger and Le Meridien Abu Dhabi executive chef Dominique Morin. Highfield chairman Richard Sprenger and Le Meridien Abu Dhabi executive chef Dominique Morin.

Caterer Middle East speaks to chefs and suppliers across the region to gauge reactions to the latest food safety legislation, which has been introduced by many GCC governments

Food safety standards in the GCC are getting an overhaul, with governments leading the way by introducing new legislation to encourage F&B outlets in the region to work towards better hygiene principles.

In Dubai, the recently launched ‘Person in Charge’ scheme, which will see a person trained and allocated to look after all aspects of food handling, is now a mandatory requirement for all F&B businesses in the emirate.

MGK managing partner Mirco Beutler explained that the Person In Charge (PIC) scheme would make a real difference to Dubai’s food and beverage landscape.

“The PIC programme is very important for all of us. It makes a real difference for the F&B outlets which are maybe not four-or five-star — so cafés, canteens in labour camps and so on, they will all have to comply with these regulations because everybody deserves to have safe food to eat,” he said.

The rolling out of additional food safety guidelines was praised by Highfield chairman Richard Sprenger, who highlighted the importance of protecting consumers.

“The training of food handlers in food safety is essential to minimise the risk of food poisoning and to protect the tourist economy of Dubai,” he said.

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“The training of supervisors and managers in food safety is even more important. The PIC scheme is an exciting programme involving the food industry, Dubai Municipality, trainers and the Dubai Accreditation Centre, which will make a tremendous contribution to the training of managers and the safety of food premises in Dubai. The Municipality is to be commended for developing and leading the Person In Charge initiative,” Sprenger added.

Dubai is not alone in introducing new legislation to improve food safety standards; in Sharjah a new programme has recently been brought in, which will see the emirate aiming to eradicate cross-contamination.

Dr Rasha Ahmed Bin Sultan Al Qassemi, assistant general director of health, environment, and quality affairs for Sharjah, explained that it was important to raise levels of food safety awareness among the local population, while also creating a safe environment for visitors.

“This is a four-year programme,” Al Qassemi explained. “Our aim with the food is to totally prevent cross-contamination, making Sharjah a safe environment.”

The role of governments in developing such legislation has been key to improving food standards in the region, where municipalities such as Abu Dhabi have taken a strict line on food safety standards, to ensure that the emirate is leading the way in food hygiene.

“The government is implementing new things on a yearly basis,” said Cristal Hotel Abu Dhabi executive chef Johannes Petrus Schouten.

“You can’t implement a system like this in 24 hours or in a month — the chefs, the hotels; everybody has to adapt to this system so it’s all about constantly reviewing the rules. Everything is in place,” he said.