View of part of the Fujairah Corniche and the Hajar Mountains in the Background

Thursday, July 16, 2009

SOS for Information on Food Products in Many Languages in UAE

Nutritional Info
I had a question from a reader of this site asking if I could tell him what the Arabic words meant on a pot of yoghurt.

He was seeking to learn the nutritional value of the contents of the yoghurt for sale in a UAE supermarket.

Lost in Translation
I sympathized with him as, staying in Spain at the moment, I have had difficulty finding a moisturizer and getting my message across to the salesperson at the Farmácia.

Even when I explained in English what I wanted I came home with a moisturising soap (I have since found the moisturiser and the word in Spanish which is hidratante). But the ingredients are all listed in Espa├▒ol (Spanish).

One woman in a Carrefour supermarket this week showed me a meat product and asked me in English, “Is this beef because my flatmate will not eat it if it is lamb.” Fortunately I did recognise the word ternera, which is one of the words for beef as distinct from cordero (lamb).

With 200 nationalities represented in the UAE population it is highly likely that many have difficulty in reading the information on different products. Many of the shopping items are imported from other countries there will be Emiratis no doubt who have difficulty in reading the information which is predominantly in English.

Are there any helpful web sites or books that quickly provide information in different languages on words that describe the contents of products in supermarkets?

This is not only a matter of convenience and customer service it is sometimes a matter of life and death for people who suffer from food allergies.

If you have the same problem as the person that asked me the question, what do you do?

That Emirates Palace Yoghurt
Perhaps the British chef at the Emirates Palace restaurant that got fined this week for having some yoghurt that was one day past its expiry date had a container on which the Use by Date was written in Arabic.

Dr Geoff Pound

Geoff can be contacted by email at geoffpound(at) on Facebook and Twitter.