Dubai Municipality and Dubai Health Authority jointly launch first Foodborne Disease Investigation and Surveillance Program
With the disease surveillance system in place, hospitals are able to provide real time reports on suspected foodborne illnesses to the Food Control Department
Dubai Municipality and Dubai Health Authority have jointly launched the first project at the national level to investigate cases of transmitted food poisoning and diseases at the start of this month.
Khalid Sharif Al Awadhi, director of Food Control Department said this joint venture is the first of its kind in the country, which will contribute to finding all cases of transmitted food poisoning and diseases.
"We are happy to inform that our work with the DHA has helped us produce the disease data for the last 9 months. Through DHA, the Food Control Department is now linked to all hospitals in Dubai. The hospitals are required to report all suspected foodborne diseases (food poisoning cases) to DHA and the Food Control Department," Al Awadhi said.
"Changing technologies, rapidly emerging and virulent pathogens, as well as globalization of the food supply present new and unique challenges to maintaining a safe food supply and protecting the consumer. With the increasing movement of food across the globe, foodborne pathogens have also spread," he said.
"The outbreak of a highly virulent strain of E. Coli 0104: H4 linked to fenugreek sprouts in 2011 is a classic example of how the pathogens have emerged and how widespread and damaging foodborne diseases can be to countries that consume the contaminated food product as well as those that produce the food," he added.
Dr. Aizeldin Abdelrahman Elgak Ibrahim, head of Preventive Medicine Section at DHA, said the disease surveillance system links hospitals to the food control system. With the disease surveillance system in place, hospitals are able to provide real time reports on suspected foodborne illnesses to the Food Control Department. Investigations are conducted by the department based on these reports.
"Early detection of foodborne disease outbreaks is the key to controlling the spread of diseases - the earlier we detect an outbreak, the lesser will be the number of people who get sick. Such surveillance also provides the Food Control Department with the basis for developing, implementing, and evaluating control policies that will lead to reduced rate of illnesses," he said.
Dr. Fatma Alattar, Head of Preventive Services Center at DHA, said the investigation of foodborne diseases and an active surveillance system will help us to identify foodborne diseases that are predominant in Dubai and help focus on the efforts to protect people from those illnesses. Food safety programs for the food industry such as GAPs, GMPs, and HACCP can be further developed based on the surveillance data to prevent contamination of food during its journey from the farm to the table.
Asia Abdul Wahab, head of Researches and Food Planning Section at DM, said the department will investigate foodborne disease outbreaks based on the information provided by the hospital to find out what caused the illness, collecting the food history from the persons who are affected.
"Once the food history is known, investigations are done to find out the source of the food. Investigations also look at how the food got contaminated and what conditions lead to the illness. Though all suspected cases will have to be reported, the primary focus of the department will be to investigate outbreaks of foodborne illnesses. Outbreaks typically involve two or more cases of illness caused by the consumption of the same food," she said.