Q1. I went to a restaurant last week with my family. Post our meal, we suffered from a terrible bout of food poisoning. Can you please advise me on what we can do? I want to ensure that no one else suffers the way we did.
A1. It is essential that you seek medical advice which I am certain you did. Upon your recovery, it is imperative that you reach out to your medical practitioner and find out the reason for your ill health. It is important to ascertain that you and your family’s ill health was a result of consuming contaminated food. Post the confirmation; the individual should file a complaint against the restaurant before the Food Control Department at the local municipality along with the doctor’s medical report, the copy of restaurant receipts if available and other documents necessary to support the claim. A medical opinion should be obtained for matters where the health was significantly affected. The individual should also request the Food Control Department to procure and forward the sample of restaurant’s food to Food and Environment Laboratory Section at the Dubai Central Laboratory or the laboratory in the Emirate he is living in.
Q2. Is there a particular law in UAE that relates to food poisoning?
A2. The UAE Federal Law number 24 of 2006 on Consumer Protection and the Decision of the Council of Ministers number 12 regarding the implementation of the above law was enacted to protect consumers from products, production processes and services that may cause harm to health and safety of the people.
In Abu Dhabi, there is also Law number 2 of 2008 which regulates the food production and its handling in the food chains across the Emirate. This Law also outlines penalties in the form of fines for non-compliance. There are multiple regulations issued by the authorities that ensure the hygienic handling of food.
In the Emirate of Dubai, there is a Food Control Department established by Dubai Municipality that oversees all regulations and matters that are related to food control and all related aspects.
At the same time, the individual has rights under the UAE Civil Code and specifically Article 282 to 298 which deal with “acts causing harm” and imposes strict liability on the person causing the harm. Article 342 and 343 of the UAE Penal Code apply to cases where the harmed individual/individuals have died from a violation of the regulations.
Q3. I am a visitor to Dubai and contracted food poisoning from eating at a restaurant. I underwent medical treatment which my travel insurance did not cover. I decided to make a complaint to the Municipality to investigated and determined that the restaurant’s food was responsible. I believe they also fined the restaurant. My question is that I ended up spending a significant sum of money out of my own pocket as my insurance did not cover the medical expenses. Can I claim this from the restaurant?
A3. You took the correct steps in contacting the Dubai Municipality. To claim the monies for your medical expenses from the restaurant, you will need to file a civil claim against the restaurant. In matters as such, it is likely that the court will appoint an expert who will carry out a review and investigate the matter and then turn over his/her findings to the court. Alternatively, you can attempt to reach out to the Dubai Municipality and request them to supply you with their findings which resulted in the restaurant being fined. Either way, the court will award you with compensation if it is established that the cause for your ill health was, in fact, the food at the restaurant.
Q4. I went to the hospital after contracting a stomach bug. They treated me and a few days later I got a call from the Food Control Authority in Dubai to come and meet them. I am yet to go and meet them. Please advise why they have called me.
A4. When you went to the hospital, they must have inquired into the foods you had eaten over the past few days. Medical institutions have a responsibility of conducting tests on any suspected cases of food poisoning. If they establish that the food you ate at a restaurant was the reason for your stomach bug, it is their responsibility to report this to the Food Control Authority at the Dubai Municipality. Dubai Municipality has requested you to come in as it is possible that they have conducted an investigation at the restaurant. It is advised that you go and meet with them to clarify the cause for your condition.