Uniform food inspection norms likely

 21 Apr 2014 - 6:14

SCH Food Safety Training Programme launh at the SCH. Picture by: Salim Matramkot

DOHA: With the food monitoring law in the country made stricter, the authorities are working on uniform standards for food inspection to ensure that the inspectors carry out their job responsibly, a senior official of the Supreme Council of Health (SCH) said yesterday.
The amended food monitoring law stipulates stiff penalties for sale of expired or damaged food and authorises the Ministry of Municipality and Urban Planning and other bodies to publicise the names of erring outlets.
“We have to be very careful when we announce names (of outlets). We are accusing people in front of others. So we have to be careful and inspectors should know how to categorise the risks (associated with food) and the violations,” said Wasan Al Baker, Food Safety and Environment Health Manager at the SCH.
The Ministry of Municipality and Urban Planning said recently that it will start publicising the names of erring outlets on its website from April 24.
Speaking on the sidelines of a training programme for food inspectors at the SCH premises yesterday, Al Baker said that the ultimate aim of the training sessions was to develop uniform standards for food inspection that meet international standards.
“All the inspectors, whether they are from the SCH or the municipalities, will follow the same standards, which will identify the risks associated with food. The inspections will not be limited to checking the expiry date but go beyond that to the contents and ingredients,” said Al Baker.
“It’s a new concept that we are trying to implement in the country, that all inspectors need to have the same level of qualifications and skills,” she added. 
Qatar has about 300 food inspectors, of whom 250 will be attending the training sessions, being held in different phases.
The uniform standards are also meant to develop a food inspection culture in the country wherein the inspectors will also be responsible for raising awareness.
“This is to ensure that food companies are run in the proper way and they understand the international standards for food safety,” she added.
Every year, Qatar destroys a large amount of imported food that does not meet health standards, according to another senior SCH official.
“Thousands of tonnes of food is rejected and disposed of every year. It mostly gets damaged while transporting, expired or the expiry date is close. Sometimes, we send it back, but that is expensive, so we destroy it,” said Dr Mohamed bin Hamad bin Jassim Al Thani, chairman of the National Food Safety Committee.
He said all food imports are strictly monitored and importers face a temporary ban if they repeat violations.
The training programme on Risk Based Food Safety and Inspection Skills is being organised by the Supreme Council of Health (SCH). 
The training sessions focus on risk-based approach to food safety, from farm to table. Inspectors will be taught of the significant problems that can be associated with food, how these can be prevented and what evidence the inspector should look to ensure that the food safe and healthy.
The training sessions will be held in two phases. The first phase started yesterday and will be held until June. The second phase will be held between August and November and it will train more than 250 inspectors from SCH and municipalities across the country.
They will be taught to have a correct understanding of international standards of Food Hygiene Practice and Food Safety Management systems including HACCP (Hazard Analysis Critical Control Point). All inspectors participating in the training will be assessed and issued a certificate from the UK-based training contractor Campden BRI. The results from the assessments will be used to develop individual training models for the future training of each food inspector.