The Rapid Alert System for Food and Feed (RASFF) will be modelled on the European Union's RASFF, and will provide a standard platform across all seven emirates for reporting health risks from food and feed products.
“We have an action plan ready and we are already dealing with alerts and notifications. But there are gaps when it comes to federal level implementation. So, it is likely to take a year or more to fix those gaps, have legislations and a nationwide electronic system in place,” said Khalid Al Marzouqi, manager of the Agricultural and Food Risk Analysis Section at the Abu Dhabi Food Control Authority (ADFCA), speaking at a conference last month.
“As of the availability of information, each emirate will receive a standard alert on the safety of products, whether it is related to food or animal feed, as they are all under the same regulatory authority,” he added in his session at the Animal Feed, Pet Food Forum and Exhibition in Dubai.
Currently there is no unified system, which can lead to confusion and delays in recalling products, explained Al Marzouqi. He gave an example of a recall of batches of Vimto contaminated with mould in 2012; although the Ministry of Economy issued a recall notice on 4th January, Dubai Municipality was not able to recall the product until 11th January.
“Now we have different control systems in each emirate. We are currently working on setting benchmarks in all emirates so that there is uniformity and better coordination among all parties concerned,” said Al Marzouqi.
The UAE-RASFF will cover animal feed as well as consumer food products. Dr Fadi Al Natour, risk lead analyst at ADFCA, told the conference that feed contamination can be very costly and have a wide impact on health.
“When health regulations and security are concerned, it should take animal feed into consideration because it can cause hazards associated with feed notifications, due to salmonella, moulds, heavy metals or industrial contaminants,” he explained.
Separately, authorities in the emirates are launching smartphone apps to make it easier for consumers to report possible food safety violations, such as expired products in supermarkets.
ADFCA launched its Food Safety Guard app for Android devices in October 2013, and will release it for other smartphone platforms in the future. Dubai Municipality is currently developing a similar app, in partnership with GISTECH.