App to list food ingredients for safety

Foodwatch app will include ingredient information for every food product in retail and restaurants across Dubai

Foodwatch can capture ingredient information for every food product.


Want to feel safer about your food when eating out?

There’s an app for that.

All Dubai eateries must upload their menus, list of ingredients on a new app to be launched by Dubai Municipality soon, it was announced on Thursday.

The Foodwatch app will share information between authorities, food businesses, service providers and consumers. Developed by the Food Safety Department and will digitalise documents, procedures and records, as well as enable all organisations to identify and manage food-safety risks.

“Foodwatch can capture ingredient information for every food product and once the information is available, nutrient analysis can be carried out on the platform itself,” said Jehaina Al Ali, acting head of Awareness and Applied Nutrition Unit.

All nutrients, ingredients and allergens can be searched on the app.

“This will include food sold in retail as well as restaurants,” she said, noting the app now under construction will analyse food on the spot at eateries which is needed when dealing with schoolchildren who may have a particular diet or food restriction.

“Verifying the authenticity of health as well as nutritional claim will be another key feature of the Foodwatch app. By getting food businesses to declare ingredients online, any fraudulent claims would be prevented,” she said.

Based on a ‘transparency model,’ the new app’s data will be open to users and hold all parties accountable for their food listings.

The app will also digitalise documents related to supplier verification, certification, product and process information, training documents, temperature monitoring records, pest monitoring programme, cleaning and disinfection records, among others

“Every person in charge of food establishment will get smart applications to manage daily food safety checks. This will help Dubai ensure that food establishments are maintained well, practise good hygiene and any issues are picked up in real time,” explained Sultan Al Tahir, head of Food Inspection Section in the Food Safety Department.

The built-in rules and algorithms in the platform will validate information and provide instant decisions and real-time permits, replacing traditional documents of approvals and permits with ‘smart permits.’

Food allergies

Common food allergens include types of nuts such as peanuts and walnuts, fish and dairy products such as milk and eggs. However, rare allergies can also be caused by foods such as strawberries, sesame seeds and even marshmallows.

Dr Vito Annese, consultant gastroenterologist at Valiant Clinic, said that people often overlook what’s in their food to their own detriment, leading to illness.

Allergies are 4-5 times less frequent than food intolerances in the general population. However, in the case of an allergic reaction, also known as anaphylaxis, possible progression of symptoms is unpredictable, cautioning people to call for an ambulance immediately.

“Symptoms typically appear within minutes or within several hours of the food being ingested and may affect the skin, the gastrointestinal tract, the respiratory tract and, in the most serious cases, the cardiovascular system. Importantly, the first signs of reaction can be mild but can worsen quickly and children may not communicate symptoms like the adults,” he explained.

While a severe reaction may impact more than one system of the body, it can be life-threatening and requires immediate treatment.

Mild to moderate symptoms of a food allergy:

— Redness of the skin, particularly around mouth or eyes

— Clear itchy rash

— Nausea, vomiting, diarrhoea and abdominal pain

— Sneezing, a dry cough

Severe symptoms of a food allergy:

— Loss of consciousness

— Swelling of the lips, tongue, and/or throat

— Difficulty in breathing, or shortness of breath

— Difficulty in swallowing

— Feeling faint, weak or confused, looking pale

Box: What to carry if you suffer from a food allergy?

— Carry an allergy card with name, food allergy and specific ingredients to avoid

— Carrying an EpiPen (epinephrine injection, USP) Auto-Injectors

— Carrying antihistamine pills

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