Tuesday, December 21, 2010

"Food Safety in Emerging Economies – What Is Achievable, Reliable and Sustainable"; 6th Dubai International Food Safety Conference from 27 Feb to 2 March

The Sixth Dubai International Food Safety Conference will bring together
leaders in the field of food safety to discuss one of the most relevant and
timely topics – Food Safety in the Emerging Economies. The conference
will be held under the patronage of Deputy Ruler of Dubai, UAE Minister of
Finance and Chairman of Dubai Municipality, His Highness Sheikh Hamdan
Bin Rashid Al Maktoum from 27 February to 2 March, 2011 at the Dubai
International Convention and Exhibition Centre.

Eng. Hussain Nasser Lootah, Director General of Dubai Municipality on
Tuesday announced the activities of the conference in the presence of
Eng. Salem Bin Mesmar, Assistant Director General for Health, Safety and
Environment Monitoring Sector, Obaid Salem Al Shamsi, Assistant Director
General for International Affairs and Partnerships Sector, Eng. Essa Al
Maidoor, Assistant Director General for Engineering and Planning Sector and
Khalid Mohammed Sharif, Director of Food Control Department and Chairman
of the Organizing Committee of the Conference.

Lootah said that prominent food scares and changes in the international
trading environment in the recent years have brought food safety to the
forefront of international food policy concerns.

"Food control is a process that is becoming increasingly complex with the
global trends and Dubai is not different," he said.

Lootah quoted some data to explain the complexity of the situation in
Dubai. "The number of food establishments has increased from 11,752 in
2009 to 13,761 in 2010. UAE imports more than 90% of the foods consumed
in the country and 80% of this is imported through Dubai. Total imports have

increased from approximately 4.8 million tonnes in 2009 to 6 million tonnes in
2010. Number of countries exporting food to Dubai was 145 in 2009 and it is
149 in 2010. Foods imported from six of the main emerging economies were
51% in 2009 and 58% in 2010," he said.

"Recent trends in food control measures include an increased emphasis on
food safety regulations in international trade, tightening of standards, re-
orientation of private sector quality assurance techniques towards preventive
management, and a corresponding shift by regulatory agencies toward
process-based standards including “mandatory HACCP,” pointed out Lootah.

"This change in trend, largely driven by the concerns of the economically more
advanced countries, raises several important questions for countries that are
emerging as mass producing economies in the food and agriculture sector.
The most obvious concern is the impact on their trade-oriented sectors.
Many of the countries with emerging economies rely heavily on agricultural
commodity exports, and have been pursuing value-added strategies to expand
their foreign markets for processed foodstuffs. How are export sectors coping
with new international environment," he asked.

Less frequently voiced, but no less important, are the concerns relating to the
food safety situation domestically, Lootah pointed out.

"Food systems in some of these emerging countries are not always as well
organized and developed as in the industrialized world. For a range of
reasons, people living in these countries face a higher level of exposure to
contaminated foodstuffs than those living in wealthier countries – the tropical
climate favours proliferation of pests and naturally occurring toxins, the water
supplies used to clean and process food are frequently unsafe, and regulatory
standards are either lower or less well enforced," he said.

"Moreover, problems of growing population, urbanization, lack of
resources to deal with pre and post harvest losses in food, and problems
of environmental and food hygiene mean that food systems in developing
countries continue to be stressed, adversely affecting quality and safety of
food supplies," said Lootah.

He said cultural changes through urbanization may also have complicated the
situation, by changing people’s traditional ways of handling their food.

"More and more people depend on markets, and many rely at least in part on
food prepared outside of the home. People in these countries are therefore
exposed to a wide range of potential food quality and safety risks," Lootah
pointed out.

"Both the external and domestic challenges facing such countries raise
questions for the international community, such as: How are governments,
producers, and consumers meeting the evolving food safety challenge?
What kinds of development cooperation can best support these countries in
achieving and managing food safety objectives? How can we ensure reliability
and sustainability of food safety programs? What kinds of collaborative
research are needed to resolve outstanding issues? How can the food
industries work across the globe and still continue to ensure safety of their
food?" he said.

Lootah said with these questions in mind, the Food Control Department
of Dubai Municipality is organizing the 6th Dubai International Food Safety
Conference focusing on the issues facing the emerging economies in the
management of food safety.

He said the conference will provide the delegates a global view on how
countries respond to these challenges with special emphasis on emerging

Sharif said food safety experts from all over the world will meet at the
conference to discuss about food safety systems and practices that are
achievable, reliable and sustainable.

He said the Conference is organized with the support of the Ministry of
Environment and Water in the UAE, Abu Dhabi Food Control Authority, U.A.E
University and the International Association for Food Protection (IAFP).

"The scientific programmes are supported by Food and Agriculture
Organization (FAO), World Health Organization (WHO), Center for Diseases
Control (CDC) and the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA)," Sharif

"Our conference is a meeting point of food safety professionals from different
cultures and different parts of the world and is one of its kinds in the region.
Each year, the conference addresses a variety of issues that affect food safety
and facilitates mutual cooperation among regulatory agencies and the food
industry," he pointed out.

"Needless to say, strong relations and dialogues between national and
international counterparts built during the conference have helped us in
strengthening and facilitating existing mutual cooperation with national and
international jurisdictions in scientific and regulatory areas and reducing risks
associated with food supply. I know that as our partnerships strengthen, we
will come much closer to the same universal goal: to keep our population

healthy, safe, and well-protected from harm," Sharif said.

He said the main conference sessions will be on 28 February and 1 March and
several workshops will be held on the 27 February and 2 March.

Sharif said the program will cover a wide range of topics including enhancing
active managerial control in food businesses; microbiological safety of ready-
to eat foods: shelf life, testing; chemical risk assessment; foodborne disease
surveillance systems, joint programs with Dubai Health Authority, CDC, USA
and WHO; best practices in food safety in the UAE; food safety culture, impact
of food handler behaviour and industry discussions.

He said the workshops will cover topics like conducting effective food
inspections and audits; enhancing training skills; rapid detection of pathogens
in food; food safety in retail and poultry and meat safety.

Sharif said 1,240 people from 53 countries will participate in this year's
conference whereas the last year's conference was attended by 1,100 people
from 29 countries, adding that almost 40 different sessions are planned this
year with speakers from all continents.

"Registration for the conference is now open and more details of the
conference can be accessed from http://www.foodsafetydubai.com.
Special discounts will be provided to employees in the government sector and
students to encourage their participation," he said.

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