Dubai tightens rules for labelling on packaged food

All food products must have Arabic labelling, says Municipality. (EB FILE)

The Food Control Department of Dubai Municipality has tightened the Arabic labelling requirements for food importers and re-exporters.

Food inspectors are now insisting that the packaged food manufacturers and importers should mention the product's country of origin, the sensitive ingredients used, production and expiry date and other important data that some companies currently give only in English.

It was two years ago that the Dubai Municipality insisted that the food companies and traders introduce Arabic labelling, without which the products will be sent back to the port of export.

Speaking to Emirates Business at the Gulfood Exhibition at the Dubai World Trade Center, a senior official said: "We have released a revised version of the food importers guide. This is in view of the recent food poisoning cases that resulted in the death of some consumers."

The Arabic labelling requirement was introduced last year to improve food safety standards and the Municipality is now more specific about the Arabic labelling requirements, which some companies still violate.

The official said all consumers have a right to know the products' country of origin, ingredients used, expiry date and other vital data which some companies don't give in Arabic. "Now they have to print whatever vital information about the product that they write in English labelling, in Arabic too."

The "Import and Re-export Requirement for Foodstuff", released by the Municipality contains specific details about the expiry date calculation of commonly used food products such as meat, fruits and vegetables, beverages and the list of banned food product ingredients or ingredients that cause hypersensitivity.

Khalid Sharif Al Awadhi, Director of Food Control Department, has said in the revised guideline that the minimum Arabic labelling requirement on packed food items are product's name with a summarised description of the food product – the food ingredients arranged according to weight or volume; country of origin in case its omission leads to misleading the consumer; storage conditions if the product validity depends on such conditions; ingredients which cause hypersensitivity; instructions for using the product and optional displaying of the nutritional value of the product.

In addition, food labels of all new food products in the market and products with amended food labels must be approved before distribution in the local market, said Al Awadhi. However, these requirements may not be applicable in all food products and in some cases lab testing may be conducted. For food products such as rice and white sugar, expiry date is not mandatory, but the crop date should be mentioned.

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