Jail time and massive fines for food safety offences are set to be introduced in the UAE if draft legislation set to be debated by the Federal National Council on February 3rd goes ahead.
The draft law has been proposed after the House was told that many foods are causing deaths and lethal ailments due to non-conformity with existing food safety standards. Up to 85% of cancers reported in the country are attributed to the lack of standards for genetically modified foods.
With more than 80% of food products being imported into the UAE, the new laws will have a wide-ranging effect on Australia and other countries exporting goods to the region. Despite Australia’s strong food safety record, some of the new laws will mean a change in the way that some exporters do business. And with the threat of up to three years in jail and fines of up to Dh2 million (approximately AUD$686,000) the new law is something that needs to be taken seriously.
The new legislation
The biggest concern for exporters is that no food may be imported into the country for the first time without being approved by the Ministry of Environment and Water.
A jail term is guaranteed for those that deal in products that contain pork, alcohol or their by-products without first gaining permission.
And false descriptions and misleading labels are also coming under scrutiny with hefty fines being imposed for such offences.
The impact of the new legislation will be felt strongly by exporters. “Out of more than 200,000 goods and commodities in the UAE’s markets, only 6,500 goods, including 300 foods, are covered by standards of the federal watchdog,” a report to the FNC stated.
Currently only three percent of the ten million tonnes of food imported to the region annually is rejected, a figure that is expected to rise as the new requirements come into place.
Passing the legislation
The new food safety legislation was passed by the Cabinet in March 2014 and is now in the final stages of approval.
It is expected to be passed by the Federal National Council on February 3rd and it will then be submitted to His Highness Shaikh Khalifa Bin Zayed Al Nahyan for final approval.