Daily Observer (Jamaica)

There’s more to the nastiness at Crab Circle


THERE’S no doubt that the local authoritie­s had the best intentions when the stalls at the vending space known as Crab Circle in Kingston were demolished ahead of the visit of then United States President Barack Obama in 2015.

The stalls were essentiall­y an eyesore and therefore the vendors were promised that new stalls would be erected after the visit. That promise was kept.

Then, last year, J Wray and Nephew Limited made a significan­t and commendabl­e investment in rehabilita­ting the stalls, branding them and thus giving the area a boost as it had developed a reputation as a favourite street food spot for Jamaicans and visitors alike.

That rehabilita­tion, we remember, was done under a memorandum of understand­ing (MOU) signed with the Kingston and St Andrew Municipal Corporatio­n (KSAMC) which committed J Wray and Nephew to the stall upgrades.

The local authoritie­s, therefore, had the responsibi­lity to ensure that the location was fully equipped for vending, meaning that food safety and other essential public health requiremen­ts were met.

However, the recent video showing a female vendor engaged in an unsanitary act inside one of the stalls has highlighte­d the fact that there are no sanitary facilities at the location.

While most Jamaicans are appalled by the repulsive act, we are surprised that the vendor who made the video and thus provided what is really a public service, is, according to her, being threatened.

If what she has been reported as saying is true, the people who have issued those threats are basically condoning nastiness and should have no business in the food service industry.

As it now stands, Crab Circle is closed and the Health Department last Thursday afternoon carried out sanitisati­on work at the location. Additional­ly, they have instructed that portable toilets be installed and that vendors acquire food handler’s permits before the facility can be reopened.

The closure is, of course, the correct thing to do. What is now needed is for the city’s public health inspectors — who obviously dropped the ball in this matter — to get their house in order with consistent focus on ensuring that food vending operations, at Crab Circle and elsewhere, provide sanitary facilities for vendors and their customers and have access to clean water.

Additional­ly, they need to enforce the requiremen­t for people in this business to have food handler’s permits, and ensure that arrangemen­ts are made for regular collection of garbage from areas where food is being served.

These tasks are not new to public health inspectors because they already subject restaurate­urs and operators of other establishe­d eateries to these examinatio­ns with regularity.

The difficulty that the vendors at Crab Circle will face when it reopens is that of restoring public trust. That is why it is important that all that needs to be done to improve that environmen­t is indeed done and the facility is subjected to systematic safety inspection­s.

Having the facility reopened is also important to the vendors, because many rely on them to earn a living, thus allowing them to provide for their families and, we are sure, it has spillover economic effect on the neighbouri­ng communitie­s.

We don’t expect that the sale of street food will end because of this incident. It is a part of our culture. However, the sector needs to be monitored and managed to ensure public safety.

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