Sunday, February 27, 2011

6th Dubai International Food Safety Conference kicks off today

The sixth Dubai International Food Safety Conference will kick off today (Feb 28) at Dubai International Convention and Exhibition Centre. Dr. Rashid Bin Fahad, UAE Minister of Environment and Water will open the conference, which is being held along side the Gulfood Exhibition. The event, which will be concluded on March 1, will be attended by global experts in the field of food safety.

The conference, held with the theme, "Food Safety in Emerging Economies – What Is Achievable, Reliable and Sustainable," will have 11 main sessions and 6 workshops during the conference and 4 workshops before the conference, in addition to 5 symposia, and a number of scientific and technical sessions.

Khalid Mohammed Sharif, Director of Food Control Department in Dubai Municipality and Chairman of the Organizing Committee pointed out that the significance of the conference due to the participation of international organizations such as the Centre for Disease Control (CDC) in the United States of America and the Food and Agriculture (FAO) of the United Nations and the International Association for Food Protection (IAFP), the largest association of professionals in the field of food safety.

Sharif pointed out that the conference has become a global scientific forum because of the participation of these international organizations that will contribute to improving business in the area of food safety in the Middle East.

"The sixth conference brings a window of opportunity for everyone interested in food safety to develop and update procedures to ensure food safety, because this conference will attract the best experts and consultants from all over the world to exchange experiences on bringing a consensus on standards and procedures relating to food safety. This conference will provide a forum for the exchange of knowledge and developing new skills for all who work in this important area in the private sector, regulatory bodies and academic institutions," he said.

Sharif added that Dubai Municipality has given priority for food safety as it links directly to the human life. “We hear everyday through media many issues related to food and its safety. So, it is mandatory from our part to invite the best experts in the field to talk about the ways and mechanism to ensure food safety in light of the new challenges during the times of economic crisis,” he said, adding that the conference comes at a time when new questions arise against quality and credibility of the food safety system.

Sharif said every year the conference deals with a large number of topics of interest to the food industry and the consequent issues and among the most important topics to be discussed during this year is the launch of Person In Charge (PIC) for foodstuff companies and food importers, which is a unique initiative at the local and regional levels.

He said this initiative will be explained in detail by focusing on ways to apply it in a manner that supports the Strategic Plan of the Emirate of Dubai and to activate the role of strategic partners in food safety and encourage them to play a more influential role through self-censorship of their establishments.

There will also be coordination and cooperation with the CDC to convene the second specialized workshop, which aims to develop a strategy and policy to deal with the diseases transmitted by food, in which the Dubai Health Authority (DHA) and the Federal Ministry of Health and health authorities in other emirates have an important role in the discussions about the draft of the Handbook, which was prepared by the Food Control Department at Dubai Municipality and specialists from DHA.

The work papers will be presented by many local regulatory bodies, which will discuss the best local practices in the field of food safety, which will be delivered by specialists from various regulatory agencies in the country, as well as best practices in the food industry by the private sector.

There will be an opportunity for foodstuff establishments and food importing companies to ask their questions and discuss their concerns with officials and experts in the field of food control, through an open meeting with representatives of the food control authorities at the local and regional levels.

Among the important topics to be discussed at the conference will be promoting a food safety culture in the foodstuff establishments, as this subject is one of the most important topics that is discussed nowadays due to its role in ensuring food safety, which constitutes one of the pillars of self-censorship in foodstuff establishments. In addition, there will be many programmes and other workshops, which will provide an opportunity to meet with workers in the field of food safety in the world who represent a wide range of cultures and international experience.

There are also other issues about food exports that are no less important, which is to ensure the safety of food consumed locally in countries with emerging economies. It is well known that food safety regulations in many of these countries do not live up to the level of regulations in force in developed and industrial countries, so the consumer in countries with emerging economies are exposed to consumption of foods with high levels of pollutants more than their counterparts in industrialized and developed countries, and the most important reasons that lead to contamination of food is that most of these countries with a tropical climate are suitable for the spread of pests and contaminants, as well as to increase the likelihood of contamination of water sources used in the preparation and manufacturing food in these countries. The problems of increasing population, urbanization, scarcity of resources to deal with the loss of crops before and after harvest, and the challenges related to environment and food hygiene means the continued suffering of these countries with regard to food quality and safety.

On the other hand, the cultural changes resulting from urbanization have led to exacerbate these problems by changing the traditional methods of food preparation, and the increased dependency on food prepared outside the home. The final outcome is the exposure of consumers in these countries to more food risks, as well as the deterioration of the quality of these food items.

The internal and external challenges of such these countries pose many questions for those involved in food safety in the world. What solutions can be provided by governments, producers, and consumers to deal with concerns about food safety? What aspects of cooperation and opportunities for coordination between producing and consuming countries that may lead to reach the objectives of ideal food safety and management? How can we be sure of the reliability and sustainability of food safety programs in these countries? What are the joint research programmes that are required to resolve the outstanding problems in this regard? How can food manufacturers in the world work to ensure the safety of the food they produce?

International experts from the GCC countries, America, Europe, Ireland, New Zealand and India will lecture on various issues related to food safety, which include specifications and technical requirements related to food safety.

The conference programme addresses several core themes related to food legislation and procedures, applications, and general culture related to food safety and activating the role of awareness.

The conference programme includes a number of symposia, workshops and technical sessions that will provide professional development opportunities for the participants.
The recommendations that will emerge from the discussion sessions at the conference are expected to contribute to the development of food safety at the local and regional levels.

The list of keynote speakers to the conference, which is the largest gathering in the Middle East, includes food safety specialists and experts such as Bill Marler, who is one of the noted lawyers in cases involving food safety, Dr. Karen Hulebak, Chairman of the Codex Alimentarius Commission, Dr. Lee Ann-Jaykus President, IAFP, David Tharp, Executive Director of IAFP, Dr. Ian Williams, Acting Chief, Outbreak Response and Prevention Branch, CDC, USA, Dr. Ezeddine Boutrif, Former Director, Food Safety and Quality Division, FAO, Dr. V. Prakash, Director, Central Food Technological Research Institute, India, and Dr. Dennis J. Russell, Professor, American University of Sharjah.

The conference will discuss recent issues related to food safety and the benefits and effectiveness of new standards in this area and the methods that have been developed in many countries to improve food safety and regulation.

A large number of professionals who are interested in developing and implementing food safety programs in various parts of the world will participate in the conference. The last year's conference was attended by more than 1,200 participants who stated that this conference has become an international event and has become the most popular in the area of food safety in the Middle East according to the questionnaire that was distributed at the end of the conference.

More information about the conference can be accessed through the conference website: