Mohammed Jragh

KUWAIT: Starting from the beginning of this year checking and inspecting on restaurants, cafes, and other institutions dealing with food became part of the responsibilities of the Public Authority for Food and Nutrition (PAFN).

PAFN is an internationally recognized authority for food and nutrition safety. “It is an independent body that aims to protect consumers’ health through inspecting the produced or distributed food in the local market to make sure it applies to the health and safety criteria. This should also spread awareness to eliminate malnutrition diseases and protect general health,” Mohammed Jragh, Public Relations Director at PAFN told the Kuwait Times.   

More duties were transferred to PAFN gradually. “PAFN was established in 2015, and from that time, more fields are being added to our responsibility from both the Ministry of Health and Kuwait Municipality,” he stated. “These include the slaughterhouses, food products, and others.”

School canteens

The authority is also in charge of inspecting the canteens at schools. Recently, PAFN decided to strictly inspect the canteens to make sure that they only sell healthy products, and banned certain products from being sold to students.

“We will be dealing with the Kuwait Flour Mills and Bakeries Company that will supply the canteens with special products,” noted Wajd Al-Othman, Nutritionist at PAFN. “We have chosen this company as they modified their products according to our criteria. For instance, the products will be free of hydrogenated fats.

Also, their bread contains less salt than other bakeries. All their products are produced through an automated process, which is very important for students’ safety. Furthermore we demanded producing special sizes that are suitable for young students, as they usually do not finish the regular size of sandwich and other items. These products will be specially made to the school canteens and will not be available in the market.”  

“From 2016 we made an agreement with some local companies that produce juices and dairy to decrease added sugar to juices and nectars,” she further said. “We appreciate their cooperation in dropping the sugar level to the possible limit that will not affect the taste. Only these juices will be available in the canteens. Also, drinks other than juices and nectars were already banned in canteens according to the GCC list For Schools Cantinas Food Criteria.”

“We aim to improve the nutrition and health condition of the students to treat malnutrition and avoid it. We have bigger plans, and this is the first step. We started with the elementary schools first, as this is the basic. This way the student will get used to healthy nutrition and preserve it in later stages. It is more difficult at the intermediate stage if they were not used to it from a younger age,” she pointed out. 

Parents should be aware of the healthy nutrition of their children. “They should know the harm of unhealthy food, which they should not give to their children. Our role is limited to inspecting the sold items at the canteens, and we are not in charge of checking what the children brought with them from home,” Othman concluded.

24-hour shifts

PAFN inspectors go on regular inspections on daily bases. “Our inspectors work on 24-hour shifts. Then they also go on group inspections twice a week depending on the seasons, which may increase in Ramadan or Eid for instance. We inspect all the institutions dealing with food,” said Abdullah Abbas, Head of the Inspection Department for Mubarak Al-Kabeer Governorate.

Inspection of school canteens is also part of their checkups. “We inspect the factories and importing companies before they sign an agreement with the Ministry of Education. If their products meet the criteria then we give the approval to deal with them. Then after the schools start, our department form committees in each governorate to inspect the school canteens,” he also said.

“If any inspector had doubts about a certain food product, we will take a sample to check it at the laboratory. Also, we take random samples of the special products of the factory that will supply the school canteens. Doubts arise if the lighting or the ventilation system was not good, which may affect the food products,” added Abbas.

Any food product cannot enter the country without being checked. “This checking process belongs to the Imported Food Department. The inspectors first do visual examination to the products, then they take a sample that is checked at the laboratory. The shipment should be held until the results come from the laboratory saying it is safe,” he noted.

According to him, tests on a certain brand of gum that an account on social media claimed that it includes pork came negative, despite the fact that the producer at the country of origin stated on his social media account that all the products of his factory include pork. Abbas doesn’t know if there is shortage in the Kuwaiti laboratories that make them unable to detect all traces of pork gelatin, but he assured that all gums were withdrawn from the local market due to the statement of the producer.

By Nawara Fattahova