DUBAI // Hotels are taking new measures to ensure they do not contribute to global food waste.
While millions of people go hungry worldwide, about 1.3 billion tonnes of food a year is lost or wasted, according to the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation. Its figures were based on findings of the Swedish Institute for Food and Biotechnology.
"Food as waste is a worldwide concern, and our focus is on what our role is in this global scenario," said Bobby Krishna, senior food studies and surveys officer at the food control department of Dubai Municipality.
"The more the industry takes care to meet set standards, the better reduction of wastage."
In the capital, the Abu Dhabi Food Control Authority issued a circular to hotels in late March, outlining a possible penalty of up to Dh50,000 annually if waste exceeds the acceptable limit. The acceptable limit will be decided at a meeting next week.
Roula Hakim, environmental hygiene health and safety manager at Sheraton Abu Dhabi Hotel and Resort, and Meridien Abu Dhabi, said the new rule will be implemented upon renewal of tourism licences.
"Food wastage is a big problem," she said. "Especially for establishments that display large amounts at buffets. We display small quantities and refill when needed."
When, after functions, food is left over that was not served or displayed, it is distributed throughout the hotels' restaurants on the same day.
Hassan Massood, executive chef at the Radisson Blu in Dubai Media City, said food cooked but not served is kept chilled and can be served the next day.
"As per Dubai Municipality requirements, food served on the buffet is kept for a maximum of four hours at the right temperature," he said. "Whatever food is left over at the end of the day has to be thrown away."
Mirco Beutler, the Dubai-based managing director of Mobile Gastrokonzepte, a food services company, said it has a new product that will dramatically decrease waste.
The Waste 2.0 food waste digester uses micro-organisms to digest food and break it down into a greyish water safe for use on plants.
"We installed it in 50 sites across the United Kingdom over the last year including hospitals and we've taken an order from the Westin Hotel, Dubai," Mr Beutler said.
He said the machine costs around €10,000 (Dh52,600) and can reduce hotel waste by up to half.
Ms Hakim said if the product is shown to be effective, her company might place an order.
Mr Krishna said one of the main issues the municipality faces is the rejection of imported food at ports over "trivial" issues such as non-compliance by companies at the country of origin.
He said the municipality plans to target the biggest importers of food - including India, China, Pakistan and the United States - to provide information about rejected foods, companies and brands.
When there are regulations specific to Dubai, he added, communication needed to be stepped up by appointing liaisons.
"Some 95 per cent of food is imported here. That's around six million tonnes per year. The better the food control along the chain the less rejection and waste," he said.
"Imagine a ship coming here with a full container and going all the way back and the energy that will consume. Imagine the energy invested in food production. If we clarified regulations, they can save millions."