Dubai: Improper handling of food at home is more likely to cause food poisoning in Dubai rather than food establishments, according to a senior official at the Dubai Municipality.

Only a small fraction of the 694 confirmed cases of food poisoning in Dubai in 2011 could be related to issues with food establishments like restaurants and grocers, he added.

“Most of the cases were related to food issues at home. Households need to be equally careful and we found temperature abuse and lack of hygiene to be the issues, said Asia Abdul Wahab Murad, Head of Development and Planning with the Food Control Department at Dubai Municipality.

Dubai has a food borne surveillance system where hospitals report cases related to food borne illnesses to the Dubai Municipality, which follows up and investigates the details about the cause of such illnesses.

The number of confirmed food poisoning cases was 694 in Dubai last year while there were 529 suspected cases, said Khalid Shareef, Head of Food Control Department, Dubai Municipality.

Dubai has an average of 88 per 100,000 cases of food poisoning, and the aim is to bring that number down to 70 by 2014.

Shareef, who released the Food Safety Report 2011 this week, said the department found food borne illnesses were caused by a lack of hygiene, mostly in case of households.

According to the Food Safety report, Dubai’s adherence to food safety practices is good overall and a high number of establishments comply with the regulations.

Nearly 91 per cent food items were certified as complying with laboratory standards compared to 89.6 per cent in 2010.

The quantity of food imported went up to 9.5 million tonnes last year from 7.4 million tonnes in 2010 and the civic body issued licenses to 2,202 new permanent and 1,974 new temporary food establishments last year.

Data released last year had shown the average number of food poisoning cases in Dubai was 88 per 100,000 in comparison to 15,384 in US and 8,870 in the UK.

According to the data, released by the DHA last year, the highest number of food poisoning cases in Dubai in the past five years occurred among male workers between 18 years and 27 years and lack of hygiene was cited as the primary reason for illness among these workers.