Dubai, UAE: Just because food is frozen doesn’t mean bacteria can’t grow on it.
Food safety experts have urged shoppers to take precautions when transporting frozen food products to their homes, as the time spent outdoors may cause them to defrost and encourage bacteria to grow.
Dubai Municipality officials also pointed out that residents should ensure their freezers are set at the correct temperature from -18 Celsius or lower to keep frozen products intact.
"I bought a 24 pack of hamburgers from a mall last week and after opening it saw that some of them were rotten and had some sort of fungus on them," said Bilal Ahmad, a resident, who bought the products from a supermarket in Muhaisnah.
"My sister was about to open the pack and cook two pieces for my nephew. Thank God that didn’t happen as they noticed a rotten smell from the meat and called me up. When I came home I saw that six of the burger patties were black, with some green and white fungus on them," he said.
Such complaints of bacteria and fungi have to first be tested by the Central Laboratory to determine what kind of mould has developed on the food product.
"The problem clearly lies with the quality of the food product and mould is a clear indicator of that. Within the next five days we can expect the results of the laboratory to be released and can only then determine what kind of bacteria it is," said Bashir Yousuf, food safety expert at Dubai Municipality.
He urged shoppers who come across such incidents of spoilt food to immediately notify the municipality’s hotline 800 900, so they can cross-reference the batch number and contact the retailer and importer, if necessary.
Yousuf said there were many factors that could contribute to spoilt food and consumers should also take the necessary precautions.
"There are a number of ways that frozen food can get spoilt so the fault may not necessarily lie with the manufacturer, consumers could also be responsible. You have to make sure that products are not kept outdoors for a long time while walking around the shopping mall and once refrigerated they should be kept at the right temperature," he said, noting that sometimes refrigerators and freezers in households may not be set at the correct temperature.
Chilled food should be kept at 1-5 Celsius.
According to recent statistics 1,129 complaints about food were logged from the public from January to June 2013, across the 35,000 food establishments in the city of Dubai.
Sultan Al Taher, Head of Food Inspection at Dubai Municipality, said statistics for the last half of 2013 would be ready soon and that there had been a significant drop in the number of complaints from 3,015 in 2011 to 2,372 in 2012.
© Gulf NewsJan 2014