Setting the standard

While HACCP has benefited many food production companies in Dubai, questions have been raised about its implementation.

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By  Roger Field Published  June 1, 2006

|~|Samosas200.jpg|~|Producers of food stuff must gain HACCP certification by June 30, 2006.|~|Many companies involved in the food sector view HACCP (Hazard Analysis & Critical Control Point) certification as a cornerstone of food safety and best practice. And with food production companies across the UAE facing a deadline of June 30, 2006 to gain certification, HACCP is increasingly coming to the attention of all businesses involved with food – from food factories to restaurants and hotels. But while many food producers - and the consultancies responsible for helping them achieve HACCP certification - are working hard to raise standards, there are concerns that a minority of consultants may be allowing standards to slip in order to make a quick profit. Indeed, one food safety consultancy in Dubai, which has been approved by Dubai Municipality to help food producers gain HACCP, told Retail News Middle East that the certification in Dubai is being compromised by bad practices on the part of a minority of the consultancy and certification companies. “There are many companies in Dubai that deal with HACCP consulting and implementation as well as food hygiene and safety training,” said Rita Abou Obeid, executive officer of Boecker Food Safety. “Many of them have low standards, bringing the whole HACCP to a lower standard.” One problem is that some of the consultancy companies involved with HACCP are cutting corners at the training stage in order to take on more business and make more money. “Many of these consulting and training companies that are conducting the training are doing training in about four hours instead of six or seven hours,” she said. “They are compromising quality just to get more business.” She added that some of the consultants are outsourcing important HACCP work to other firms that have not been approved by Dubai Municipality, and then passing off the work as if they have done it themselves. Worse still, some of the certification and consultancy companies are working together to ensure companies pass HACCP when they might otherwise have failed to meet the standards demanded by the certification. “Companies are implementing HACCP, and some kind of sister companies to them – that are working together with them but under the table – are certifying them,” Obeid said. “If you are doing tests of any kind and you are correcting that test yourself, you will give yourself the best grade. This is what they’re doing.” Part of the problem appears to be that Dubai Municipality lacks the necessary presence to police the HACCP system effectively. For example, Obeid said that the Municipality is aware of, and trying to control, the problem of collusion between the certification and consultancy companies. “[The Municipality] is saying that it is going to audit all the premises that are getting certified, but I am not sure that they have enough inspectors to do the whole job, especially now that there are hundreds of companies that are undergoing HACCP. I’m not sure the Municipality will be able to cover all these companies and be everywhere,” she said. Obeid has first hand experience of this lack of checks by the Municipality. Consultants at Boecker have seen little presence from Municipality staff. “All the consultants need to be certified by the Municipality but they never came and even talked to our consultants. Whatever we give them [the Municipality], they just go through […] but they never come and really assess the qualifications and background of our consultants,” she said. “There is all of this fuss to have all the establishments HACCP certified, but what sort of standards will these be if the work is not monitored properly?” Despite Obeid’s fears, Dubai Municipality confirmed to Retail News Middle East that it is aware of problems in the HACCP programme and is working to rectify them. “We are aware of these issues that are happening in the HACCP certification, training and consultancy services,” said Harold G. Orona, a food health officer at Dubai Municipalities public health department. “We are monitoring these companies and legal actions will be imposed such as deletion from the list of approved companies, which would not allow them to conduct any business here in the emirate of Dubai, if proven by evidence that they are violating the Dubai Municipality regulations,” he said. “Deletion from the list will not allow them to conduct or offer any HACCP-related training, consultancy and certification services.” Orona also said that there are enough inspectors to carry out the monitoring of HACCP. He added that the Municipality has also taken measures to ensure that it learns of any bad practice by consultants and certification companies. “We have instructed all our inspectors in the food safety unit to give us feedback if the food premises have some complaints on their consultancy or certification companies," Orona added. "We have also notified the food factories to report to us any companies who are conducting the services which are not in accordance with Dubai Municipality requirements." ||**||

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