Name and shame the dirty, un­hy­gienic food out­lets

Food hy­giene must never be com­pro­mised; the safety of thou­sands of cus­tomers must take prece­dence

New Straits Times - - Opinion - The writer is an in­de­pen­dent Lon­don-based econ­o­mist and writer The writer is a for­mer NST group editor

the dif­fi­culty in their in­sur­a­bil­ity, col­lat­eral and the ex­tra tier of syariah com­pli­ance, have given rise to risks that the IMF says are unique to the phe­nom­e­non.

Some in­dus­try ex­perts dis­agree with IMF on the na­ture of de­posits and cap­i­tal ad­e­quacy re­quire­ments un­der the Basle III frame­work. They want a dif­fer­ent con­sid­er­a­tion, es­pe­cially in the re­port­ing treat­ment of de­posits and cap­i­tal and their risk char­ac­ter­is­tics.

The Kuala Lumpur-based Is­lamic Fi­nan­cial Ser­vices Board (IFSB) has the man­date to set pru­den­tial and su­per­vi­sory stan­dards for the global in­dus­try. Since its in­cep­tion, IFSB has is­sued 26 Stan­dards, Guid­ing Prin­ci­ples and Tech­ni­cal Notes for the Is­lamic fi­nan­cial ser­vices in­dus­try. While IFSB’s work has been highly com­mended, IMF notes that “fur­ther strength­en­ing of the im­ple­men­ta­tion and the con­sis­tent ap­pli­ca­tions of these stan­dards are needed, par­tic­u­larly, in ju­ris­dic­tions where Is­lamic bank­ing has be­come sys­tem­i­cally im­por­tant”.

IMF sur­veil­lance of mem­ber coun­tries in­cludes the Ar­ti­cle IV Con­sul­ta­tions and the Fi­nan­cial Sec­tor Ac­tion Plan, which as­sesses the strength and ef­fec­tive­ness of reg­u­la­tion and su­per­vi­sion of the bank­ing, cap­i­tal mar­ket and in­surance sec­tors in a mem­ber coun­try. Core Prin­ci­ples for var­i­ous fi­nan­cial sec­tors have be­come a stan­dard tool to guide reg­u­la­tors and su­per­vi­sors in de­vel­op­ing their reg­u­la­tory regimes and prac­tices. IFSB’s CPIFR was specif­i­cally de­signed for the reg­u­la­tion and su­per­vi­sion of the Is­lamic fi­nan­cial ser­vices in­dus­try.

The IMF re­port pro­poses that the board for­mally recog­nise CPIFR as the in­ter­na­tional stan­dard for the su­per­vi­sion and reg­u­la­tion of Is­lamic banks so that these stan­dards can be for­mally used and as­sessed un­der the var­i­ous IMF and World Bank sur­veil­lance and tech­ni­cal as­sis­tance pro­grammes.

This is im­por­tant in that it would give the first in­de­pen­dent as­sess­ment of the su­per­vi­sion and reg­u­la­tion of Is­lamic banks. Malaysia, three years ago, was the first and only coun­try that in­vited IMF to as­sess the su­per­vi­sion of its Is­lamic bank­ing sec­tor, al­beit then un­der the core prin­ci­ples for con­ven­tional banks.

THE au­then­tic nasi kan­dar car­ries with it cer­tain char­ac­ter­is­tics in the way this food from Pe­nang is served. First, there has to be ad­e­quate spillage of gravies all over the place. (a goulash or mish­mash of curries) is a must as the rice is served in a sin­gle plate mixed with an as­sort­ment of dishes.

The per­son serv­ing, who also has to pour the cor­rect combo of gravy on the plate of rice, has to do so with a cer­tain gait, complete with a shake of the head. And, if beef is added to the serv­ing, he would test the piece of meat by squeez­ing it with his bare fin­gers to see whether it is too tough.

Next, the nasi kan­dar food counter, spillage and all, usu­ally oc­cu­pies a cor­ner of a larger cof­feeshop. Some­times it is in an al­ley­way. Rarely is real nasi kan­dar sold in a shop of its own. That is be­fore the cur­rent rave for nasi kan­dar, where you get what is lib­er­ally called “nasi kan­dar” wher­ever and when­ever rice is sold with curries.

But, that is about all the un­tidi­ness of this dish should ever be. The slop­pi­ness and lack of spruce­ness does not and will never com­pro­mise on hy­giene. Cer­tainly, it does not mean squalid or dis­gust­ing con­di­tions, where dead rats, their drop­pings, cock­roaches and other yucky pests are found.

So, when the ever-pop­u­lar nasi kan­dar stall Line Clear, along with two other food out­lets, were forced to close af­ter Pe­nang City Hall and Pe­nang Health Depart­ment of­fi­cers found rats and cock­roaches at its premises dur­ing a joint in­spec­tion last Mon­day, it was caught in a non-bar­gain­able sit­u­a­tion.

The clo­sure was ini­tially for two weeks un­der Sec­tion 11 of the Food Act 1983, which says, among other things, that clo­sure not ex­ceed­ing 14 days would be or­dered on any premises sell­ing food, “where such premises is in a con­di­tion that fails to com­ply with the san­i­tary and hy­gienic re­quire­ments and such that it is likely to be haz­ardous to health. The pro­pri­etor, owner or oc­cu­pier of the premises who fails to com­ply with the or­der com­mits an of­fence and is li­able on con­vic­tion to im­pris­on­ment for a term not ex­ceed­ing five years or to fine or both”.

Such is the se­ri­ous­ness of the of­fence and for tak­ing cus­tomers for granted.

Two years ago, it was the fa­mous

also in Pe­nang, which was found to be want­ing. Coun­cil of­fi­cers on spot checks found rat drop­pings in one of the bak­eries, which also had two trol­leys with stacks of dough left be­side the toi­let with its door ajar, when the raid­ing party came while bread was be­ing made.

Of­fi­cers con­duct­ing the checks also dis­cov­ered hu­man hair-like items in a con­tainer with oil, which was used to knead the dough. Sev­eral work­ers were sim­ply throw­ing ex­cess dough on the wet floor in­stead of col­lect­ing them in a bin for dis­posal later.

But, sim­i­lar con­di­tions were found in five oth­ers premises — two each in Kepala Batas and Ni­bong Te­bal, and an­other in Bukit Mer­ta­jam. I still feel the au­thor­i­ties should name and shame them. Sadly, none of the bak­eries were named by the coun­cil — which was wrong if there was a les­son to be learnt.

The au­thor­i­ties, how­ever, cleared them for re­open­ing af­ter a while, just like the case of Line Clear, which re­opened af­ter three days. Is that jus­ti­fied?

Own­ers of the premises may claim that it was sab­o­tage that led to the un­hy­gienic dis­cov­er­ies. But, sab­o­tage or no, dead rats and rat drop­pings were in­deed found and a de­ter­rent pun­ish­ment ought to have been given. The only thing is, the premises was named this time.

The safety of thou­sands of cus­tomers must take prece­dence over ev­ery­thing else.

I was a reg­u­lar cus­tomer of Line Clear in the 1980s when I was with the Pe­nang bureau. The of­fice was in Chu­lia Street, just a stone’s throw from the out­let. It was not even called Line Clear then and there were only two long ta­bles for cus­tomers to have their meals. The food was ex­cel­lent, but there were no long queues at the food counter like it has now.

The san­i­tary con­di­tion was there­fore more man­age­able. Now it seems Line Clear mainly at­tracts cus­tomers from out­side Pe­nang. There are big crowds all day long and that is where the prob­lem lies when it comes to keep­ing the premises clean and san­i­tary.

To all nasi kan­dar stalls, the health safety of cus­tomers is not some­thing that could be com­pro­mised. What if there was no spot check last Mon­day?

Fa­mous food out­lets of­ten have big crowds all day long, mak­ing it a chal­lenge to keep the premises clean.

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