Dubai municipality: Clean cans before drinking to prevent disease

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A food safety expert in Dubai of the UAE suggested people clean cans or pour their drink into other containers before drinking canned beverages, after the Dubai government warned residents that cans may be tainted with fatal bacteria.

The Dubai municipality issued a warning through the local newspaper the Gulf News on May 1, asking people to clean cans thoroughly before drinking from them.

There have been cases worldwide of people dying after contracting leptospirosis, a fatal bacterial disease, after they drank directly from tainted cans, according to the warning.

“Maybe there is a rat in one establishment in the warehouse where they’re storing these cans. So the rat walks on these cans and probably they urinate on these cans. So actually if the can is diseased by that bacteria which cause this leptospirosis, it could be transferred to a human being or to any animal in that matter,” said Bashir Hassan Yousuf, food safety expert from Dubai Municipality’s Food Control Department.

Rodents, raccoons, cattle, and goats are all common carriers of the bacteria leptospira. When humans come into contact with water contaminated by urine or body fluids from infected animals, they become infected.

Many Dubai residents have therefore started to prefer other containers over cans, for fear of contracting the disease.

“I prefer bottles. It’s much safer. The covering of the mouth is closed compared to the can which is exposed more, so that’s the reason,” said one resident.

But Yousuf said the chances to get infected are rare because the bacteria have high demands on temperature and moisture.

He said that there was no need to give up using cans and the government warning was only to remind people to cultivate proper hygiene practices.

“It’s a low risk incident here. We’re talking about very low possibility but nevertheless, people should be careful with their food. I think if there is any possibility, it’s just very simple, people can just wash the can, people can wipe it with a clean cloth or tissue, or they can drink from a straw, or they can pour the drink into a glass and drink from that glass,” said Yousuf.

The Dubai government has also strengthened the examination of canned beverages to ensure the cans are not tainted. They are checking products coming into Dubai at ports, as well as products in storage, ensuring no tainted cans are released onto the market.

“We have around ten million tons of food coming through Dubai. So this is our challenge. Our job and also the private company and also the consumer, so all of us should share the responsibility,” said Khalid Mohamed Sharif al-Awadhi, director of the Food Control Department in Dubai Municipality.

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