Food & Drugs Di­rec­tor backs city’s clo­sure of five food out­lets

Stabroek News - - BUSINESS -

As­sur­ances as­so­ci­ated with the qual­ity of cooked foods be­ing pro­vided to pa­trons at pub­lic places are an im­por­tant barom­e­ter of a coun­try’s de­vel­op­ment and lapses in food safety stan­dards can have a neg­a­tive im­pact on ex­ter­nal per­cep­tions of stan­dards “on the whole” in a coun­try, Di­rec­tor of the Govern­ment An­a­lyst Food and Drugs Depart­ment (GA-FDD) Mar­lan Cole has told the Stabroek Busi­ness.

He was at the time re­spond­ing to the re­ported re­cent clo­sure by the Mayor and City Coun­cil of five food es­tab­lish­ments in var­i­ous parts of the city for of­fences in­clud­ing the ab­sence of busi­ness regis­tra­tion, trad­ing with­out a Food Han­dler’s Cer­tifi­cate and Trad­ing un­der in­san­i­tary con­di­tions.

Cole told Stabroek Busi­ness that the Food and Drugs Depart­ment was pleased at the ac­tion which City Hall has taken. “We have to con­tinue to send strong sig­nals that we are se­ri­ous about en­force­ment of the laws,” Cole told Stabroek Busi­ness. He said that the preva­lence of the prac­tice tended to be greater in ar­eas where the pres­ence of mu­nic­i­pal mon­i­tor­ing was weaker, par­tic­u­larly ru­ral ar­eas. “What is also im­por­tant is that the re­cent ac­tion by City Hall sends sig­nals to the other of­fend­ers. That can­not be a bad thing,” the GAFDD Di­rec­tor told Stabroek Busi­ness, adding that it was good to see that de­spite “what is al­most cer­tainly a sit­u­a­tion of lim­ited re­sources, City Hall is still seek­ing to keep the pres­sure up on delin­quent food ven­dors.”

Cole said that he be­lieved that the ac­tion be­ing taken to clamp down on delin­quents is a func­tion of stepped up

ini­tia­tives in the area of food safety train­ing and the dis­sem­i­na­tion of food safety com­mer­cials in the me­dia. “That sug­gests that our train­ing is be­ing taken more se­ri­ously”. Cole told Stabroek Busi­ness, how­ever, that he be­lieved that there was still “a long road to travel” in or­der to get stan­dards to where we want them to be. “We wish to see more per­sons with Food Han­dlers ID Cards se­cure same with train­ing. More than that we need to have street ven­dors equip them­selves with some ba­sic things in­clud­ing hot and cold stor­age fa­cil­i­ties, potable run­ning water, food han­dlers cer­ti­fi­ca­tion, waste dis­posal fa­cil­i­ties and ap­pro­pri­ate pro­tec­tive cloth­ing. Cole, mean­while, told Stabroek Busi­ness the GA-FDD wished to see stepped up mon­i­tor­ing and more as­sertive ac­tion from in­spec­tors across the re­gions where there is a preva­lence of food vend­ing. “We can­not af­ford to ig­nore safety con­sid­er­a­tions out­side of the city and its en­vi­rons,” Cole said.

Be­sides the lo­cal mar­ket, Cole ex­plained that what is known in­ter­na­tion­ally as “road­side food” has be­come ex­tremely pop­u­lar with tourists across the world. “There are peo­ple whose pri­mary pur­pose for travel is to visit var­i­ous coun­tries and sam­ple tra­di­tional foods that are pre­pared and served out­side of the con­ven­tional hos­pi­tal­ity set­ting. In that re­gard it is im­por­tant that we do what we can to keep our stan­dards high.”

Asked if ques­tion­able stan­dards of clean­li­ness and food hy­giene in small food es­tab­lish­ments, in­clud­ing road­side en­ter­prises is not a func­tion of the fact that such busi­nesses fre­quently have their ori­gins in poor com­mu­ni­ties, Cole said that such es­tab­lish­ments still had an obli­ga­tion to live within the law and to pro­vide a ser­vice that the con­sum­ing pub­lic can trust. “The fact that road­side vend­ing pro­vides what is of­ten an es­sen­tial earn­ing op­por­tu­nity for the ven­dors does not mean that we can af­ford to over­look trans­gres­sions that have to do with sit­u­a­tions that can in­jure the health of the con­sum­ing pub­lic”, he as­serted.

The GA-FDD Di­rec­tor told Stabroek Busi­ness that there could be no le­niency with ven­dors who con­tinue to trade with­out the rel­e­vant cre­den­tials. “If you are op­er­at­ing with­out a Food Han­dler’s Cer­tifi­cate or if you are of­fer­ing cooked food to the pub­lic in poor con­di­tions you can­not ex­pect to be ex­empted from sanc­tion,” Cole said, though he con­ceded that the onus was on the au­thor­i­ties to im­pose sanc­tions.

Par­tic­i­pants at a GAFDD Food Safety Sem­i­nar

Mar­lan Cole

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